Do You Care About Your Characters?

At one point in my writing journey I was working on a story and simply couldn’t get the plot to… well, work.

My Mom made the comment that I had to get to the point where I loved my characters, wanted to spend time with them, and cared about them. I knew this, of course, it’s a pretty standard staple of writing. But I didn’t quite somehow, hearing her say it, I realized that — at that point in the story I was working on — I didn’t. Not yet.

Still, I couldn’t see how loving the characters was going to fix my plot problems.

See, I tend to approach my stories “plot first”. I need to make sure that all the layers, all the threads, and all the pieces fit. I need to eliminate any plot holes, or inconsistencies before I can focus on the rest of the story. That’s how I approach writing. And that’s fine! Plot is — of course — incredibly necessary. And every writer will have a different way to approach their craft.

But, a story is multifaceted. And each aspect should be intwined with every other aspect. So, it shouldn’t have been too surprising to me that, once I switched how I viewed my story and allowed myself to approach the plot from the characters’ perspectives and reactions, that the plot started to click together.

This is not to say that focusing on characters alone will fix all the plot problems! But it sort of… opened up the story so that I could approach the plot from a new angle, and that gave me new paths to work the plot.

Because it’s not just about loving the characters. It’s about intwining their arcs and motives and reactions with the plot. And I’d been trying to do one without the other and it just wasn’t working.

So now, even if I get incredibly frustrated with a story, if I take a few days off and actually miss the story — miss the characters who inhabit that world and want to jump back into the pages and spend time with them — I consider that a good sign that I’m on the right track.

Post by Ann Marie Williams © 2021