Connecting With Your Characters

Do you always click instantly with the characters you write? Or do you sometimes have to get to know them a bit before you can really write them well?

I’ve heard before that you shouldn’t write characters you don’t love (or perhaps love to hate?) This makes total sense to me, and in many of stories it’s been an easy thing to accomplish. But not always.

I’m currently back to working on the biggest pain of an MS I have ever written, =P  I’ve mentioned this story before…I love it, and I know it has amazing potential, but it’s extremely slow going because it’s stubborn and I just can’t get into a beautiful swing with it.

And I know a big reason for this is that I am having trouble connecting to my main character. Now, I understand her. I have spent a lot of time getting into her mind, learning about her life and her personality. I get it, but I don’t click with it. We, as people, just wouldn’t mesh, and I actually think that’s perfectly okay. She undergoes some changes in this story that evolve her into a person I would want to spend time with, but through a large portion of the book, she’s not (which is kind of the point).

However, that doesn’t make writing her any easier!

So I’m curious to know whether you’ve ever had a character like this. Someone in your story who takes the main stage, or maybe even just a minor character. Sometimes it’s definitely necessary to cut these characters completely, so have you ever done it? And if not, how did you finally connect with your character?

For me, it’s just a continuously slow process. The more I delve into her mind and see things from her perspective, the more I can understand and relate to her way of thinking, even if I will never agree with it. And I’ve just started the first edits for the second half of the book, which means soon enough I’ll get to see some of those changes in action, which will be wonderful! My goal with this one is not to create a character that I love from beginning to end. I want her to be who she needs to be, and I want the changes that she goes through to be honest and well-paced for her personality. If I can accomplish this, and actually like her by the end, I will consider my job done well!


  • Sarah Foster

    I'm definitely in love with my main character, but I think when I first started writing this particular story, he was like some sort of undefined ghost-like blob in my mind. I realized I hadn't created a distinct voice for him. It took a lot of work, but eventually I got it down to where it's second nature. Sometimes with characters, I'll write their back stories down to figure them out. Sometimes I'll even write something that happens in the future after this story is over, just because putting them in different situations helps me understand and develop them more.

  • Stephanie Faris

    Honestly, this probably won't be the case for you, but I've had to actually abandon manuscripts because the main character just wasn't working out for me. The idea was good in my head but on paper, she just never came to life. One idea I've had for a while just can't make it to book form because I can't seem to make the story work in a way that the main characters are likable.

  • Deshipley

    I definitely have a harder time writing a story if I can't connect with the character in some way. Even if I don't adore them and/or find them fascinating (which I frequently will, but not always), I need to be able to feel where they're coming from. If I can latch onto a driving emotion I deep-down understand, that'll help. It can also sometimes work from one step removed: If another main character I connect with better cares about the tough case character enough, their point of view might rub off on me.

  • Laurel Garver

    Hmm, that's a tough one. It sounds like her point A personality looms larger for you than where she lands in point B, once she's more likable. What part of her flowers in her transformation? Have you planted seeds for it early on? Sometimes that can turn a character around for you. Look for an aspect of her motivation that is good or noble (even if she's got less noble emotions in the mix) and will eventually flower into a big change.

  • cleemckenzie

    Sounds like your characters hiding out from you. Have you tried to figure out what is behind some of things she does, says or feels? Maybe if you wrote something about her before the story starts you can get a better feeling for who she is. Good luck Sounds like a tough one.

  • lorilmaclaughlin.com

    I've never had that problem before. I don't think I could write the story if I didn't like the main character. I wouldn't be interested enough in his/her story to make it worth the effort. I think it would take all the fun out of writing. It sounds like you're accomplishing your goal, though, of letting your character be who she needs to be. I hope you can find a way to make this character shine for you. Best of luck with it!

  • Mere Joyce

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! It's a very weird situation…I have had characters I disliked before, and, like some of you, have had to scrap the whole concept because of a failed connection. This one's…different, though, even though I can't exactly pinpoint why. I think, maybe, it's because I understand her very well, even if I don't like her. But this is definitely the hardest character I've ever had to write, for sure! Usually me and my characters get along fabulously, =)

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