Characters and the writers who torment them

As writers, we do terrible things to our characters over the course of short stories and novels – we throw obstacles in their paths, send them after serial killers, break their hearts, introduce them to their arch-nemesis, strand them in foreign lands, and make them flirt with disaster.

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Often when I’m in the middle of a story and have to take a break from writing (to eat, sleep, work, or socialize with my dog, friends, and family), I feel guilty about where I leave my characters.  Did I leave my heroine during a lunch date with her friends (acceptable), did I leave her after she lost her job (not cool of me), or did I leave her just before the beginning of a love scene (oh that poor dear)?  Sometimes the thought of where I’ve left my characters in the story makes me giggle, but sometimes it makes me feel bad.

Then again, I write mostly light and silly things.  What if you write darker stories?

I’ve tried to write mystery/thriller type stories and as I’ve complained on this blog before, I often have a hard time keeping the dark going.  Also, I seem to have no trouble getting my hero or heroine into trouble…it’s the getting them out of trouble that is the tricky part.  So I have dozens of characters over the years that I’ve left stranded in precarious positions because I couldn’t figure out how to write them out of it.

But sometimes in addition to feeling guilty when I leave any of my characters in the middle of the action, I also imagine their dialogue to me, often in snarky texts (especially if I’ve abandoned the story completely) –

“wtf? You let me snoop around the killer’s house and then bailed when we heard the front door open?  wtf?”

or

“I hate you for ditching me when I’m inches away from Logan’s lips…granted I’m not sure how I feel about him yet, but still girl, wtf?”

or worse yet…

“Girl, you made me discover a body on my way to work and now my clothes are a mess, I’m having a major panic attack, and oh yeah, you were kind enough to let the body fall ON me!  Know what?  Know what?  Don’t come back!  I don’t care if I  was supposed to hook up with wolverine-inspired Logan later. You’re evil!  EVIL! WTF?!!”

lol.  Sorry and for the record, most of my characters do swear…often. :p

Believe it or not, sometimes it helps me go back and finish the story…other times, it just gives me guilt for hitting a road block.

How about you?  Do you ever feel guilty about where you leave your characters (especially if it’s a long time before you pick up the pen again)?

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14 thoughts on “Characters and the writers who torment them”

    1. It’s also probably because I can be a very slow writer and sometimes I procrastinate. If you’re a quicker writer and can power through a story, then you probably don’t have a chance to feel guilty. 🙂

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  1. Great Post. I do often feel guilty when I leave a good character hanging. I find it’s sometimes helpful to take a step back and think about it for a good few hours though. Once in a while I’ll get inspiration that makes me go in an entirely different direction than I’d previously wanted. And indeed, the characters may want us to return…and then they may regret hoping for it later when the resolution is a million times worse than the build-up. But oh well. We created them, we can do with them what we want! Ha ha…and now everyone should feel sorry for the people in the stories I write

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  2. Hahaha, I’ve never thought about it in depth but yes I do sometimes feel guilty for leaving my characters in a bad situation. However, I do it often. I think it’s because writers are so exhausted after setting the scene for the dramatic moment that they have to take time to recharge to continue. I felt really bad when I stopped writing for a week after my characters’ dad died. I just didn’t know what happened next.

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    1. We all definitely do it more than we would otherwise want to, whether we’re tired from set up or have outside obligations – like work, sleep, eating, friends, significant others, kids, and pets. Ha! How do we get anything done? 🙂

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  3. Great post! I love how you have dialog with your characters. 🙂 I have the opposite problem. My characters dictate everything and if they have a writer’s block, I’m screwed. What keeps everyone in line is not talent, skill, or even an interesting story. Those attributes can remain unobtainable. My characters know that if I wander off, I might not know how to get back. To keep themselves from disappearing into the very nebulous back alleys of my mind, they generally behave and tell me what to write. 🙂

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    1. Ha! That’s even better, when your characters take on a life of their own and tell you to write their story. 🙂 Mine give me serious side-eye and whine for me to stop procrastinating, which is so unhelpful. :p

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  4. This was hilarious! Yes, my characters often get angry when I leave them stranded, but they just grouse at me a little when I get back (or sometimes haunt me in my dreams!) None of them has ever texted me… yet. 😉

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