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How to Kick Your Characters Out of the Car

Road trip. Nothing but you, a bag with a change of clothes, a killer playlist and the few people you know best in the world. You pile into the car, excited, unsure of where this adventure will lead and dying to find out where you’ll end up.

The first few days are golden. Singing along with The Cure at the top of your lungs, wind in your hair, getting to know your companions even more – finding out what really makes them tick. Discovering their hopes, their fears, and their flaws.

And with so much time spent crammed in the car together, it’s inevitable that those flaws start to grate on you. There’s no telling how long this trip will last, how many more miles you have to go – but you need a break. What started out as an epic adventure is rapidly turning into a chore. And finally you reach your breaking point.

Time to kick your characters out of the car.

It’s usually hard for writers to take a break from their work. Sure, we can stop writing. But getting those characters and their story out of our heads? Another issue entirely. Because no matter how much they may irritate us, we love them and we have to finish this trip.

Sometimes, finishing requires time away to regain your focus. So how can you take a break, a real break, from a story? With a technique all writers master at some point or another: Distraction.

5 Ways to Distract Yourself from Your Characters

  1. Change your routine. It’s when I’m doing the things I do every day – going to the dog park, waiting in line for coffee, picking up groceries – that my characters sneak into my head and suck me back into their story. Just by putting myself in a new setting, like taking my dog to the lake instead, or trying a new cafe or market, I force myself to become more aware of my own world and not my characters’.
  2. Start a new project. Maybe a short story, non-fiction narrative, a poem, a musical composition, or a whole new novel. Even if you don’t finish it, that initial excitement can not only help provide a much-needed break from the original story, it can also help give you a confidence boost.
  3. Meet new people. Actual people, not more people inside your head! Those first few conversations with a new friend can really command all of your attention.
  4. Help another writer. If you have friends who are writers, you have friends going through the same thing you are. Ask them how their projects are going and talk through any problems – get to know their characters. Offering solutions to them just might trigger a solution for you, too.
  5. Exercise. Specifically, try something that requires a lot of focus, such as yoga or a martial art. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, the break will do both your mind and body a lot of good.

What do you do when you and your characters are, as Ross would say, “on a break”?
Michelle Schusterman

Michelle writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who'd buy a "groove matters" bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). She is the author of middle grade series I Heart Band - 2014, and The Kat Sinclair Files - 2015 (both from Grosset).

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  1. Sometimes I try to use writing as an excuse not to exercise; it should probably be the other way around!

  2. i dunno if breaks are always a good idea...last time i told my characters i wanted to take a break, they turned right around and slept with the cute girl at the copy shop... :)

  3. Oh no....not the one with the belly button ring?!

  4. I love that idea! I really need to kick my characters out of the car every once in a while. I'm heading on a road trip with a few friends for the 4th and I'll need to kick mine out. As writers, we do get our stuck writing and it's amazing. But I love taking a break! :)

  5. I usually try to read lots outside of my genre when I'm on break. It's also the perfect time to critique other people's work, so I often let my friends know they can send stuff and I'll read quick!

  6. I'm on a break from my fantasy novel and working on something new. I needed to take a break from my fantasy MC, we were fighting and I was getting pissed. Time apart does make the heart grow stronger, or is it fonder?

  7. great advice. And well written too. Thanks

  8. This post looks like it was written just for me! I went through a phase where I left my story in a virtual box, and last week, I picked it up again, inspiration renewed!
    I totally agree with everything written on this post.


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Item Reviewed: How to Kick Your Characters Out of the Car Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Michelle Schusterman