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What do You do when your writing upsets you?

By 05/03/2014February 1st, 2017Uncategorized
Characters in a Novel

“If I ask you to think about something, you can decide not to. But if I make you feel something? Now I have your attention.”

Lisa Cron

When I’m writing short stories I’m in the world of that story for a short time. But novels, as I’m finding out, are different.

I’ve grown to love these characters, become involved in their lives. What’s worse, I’m the one making them miserable, because I created their world, and their troubles. I guess the fact that I’m feeling the feeling of my characters is a good thing, because maybe then the reader will get to experience those feelings as well. And as Lisa Cron says, maybe I’ll have pure writer’s gold: my reader’s attention.

But in the meanwhile, I’m a little blue, all because of the characters in my novel– who have nothing much in common with me, who have no existence beyond my imagination.

Does this happen to you? 
Do you ever strongly feel the emotions of the characters you read about, or the ones you write?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • This is a thoughtful point you raised there…. Quite often, I base my character after a person I know in real life. In such a situation, I start thinking from that person's point of view, which means I'm perhaps going through the emotions of my friend or my maid or my student rather than connecting my own emotions with the protagonist

  • Alex Hurst says:

    I used to feel that way, and sometimes, if the connection to the character is particularly deep, I can't get over it, like -ever-. There is one character that I had to kill off, finally (old age) and I still mourn him from time to time, like I lost a real friend. I offset that by celebrating living character birthdays. 😉

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

  • Ohh i don't write fiction but i imagine I would probably be affected by my stories and characters if i did!

  • sweetyshinde says:

    Sometimes I feel like Frankenstein and the characters become the monsters. They tend to develop shades and quirks on their own

  • I think it's important that you feel every emotion when you create characters. If they have a humorous moment, you should be smiling during the editing. If somebody gets hurt, you should feel their pain. If a sympathetic character suffers loss, you should sense a tear or two about to fall.
    I've written a romance, a thriller and many short stories. My present novel is another thriller, and I know I'm getting it right when I sense the tension in the story. If you can't feel it as the writer – your reader isn't going to feel it at all.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    Only all the time. I often think that I should give these people another story just so they can continue to enjoy life.

  • I am not much of a writer but I experience a connection while reading a book and I have hangovers too 🙂
    I think to get that 'pure writer's gold' is what every writer strives for, right…then it's ok even if one has to feel the blues 🙂

  • I think that emotional connection is great!

    Maybe I'm sadistic, but I have a tendency to put my characters through some really terrible situations. In the background, I'm cackling manically and wondering how they'll get out of this new mess!

  • Mark Noce says:

    Maybe it's the question that needs to change…perhaps instead ask yourself, how does it feel to write these characters? If it feels right, then it doesn't matter so much whether you feel anything in common with them. You are their creator. If the process of writing them is painful, then maybe it's not the path you wish to take. Writing should be fun:) Just my two cents.

  • It makes perfect sense, and I believe it can pave a path to pure writer's gold.

  • Generally the emotions of my characters are projections (and modifications) of my own emotions.

  • Mark Murata says:

    I'll approach this from a different angle. Harrison Ford once said on acting that the audience deserves a backstage pass to the actor's emotions. Writers should proceed in the same way.

  • One of my characters scared me so much, I stopped writing the story for a long time. (lol)

  • shelly says:

    I cry and laugh with my characters.

  • Susan Scott says:

    always difficult.. how much is me, how much my imagination. A sweat at all times .. and therefore time for coffee

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    yes yes it does… sometimes the sadness in my stories depresses me… But still that doesn't stop me from writing. Maybe that's the beauty of whole writing experience

  • Anita says:

    Oh yes, it does! That means the writer is too involved with her work. I feel passion is a great thing. We get totally moved & create great works of art! Get over it & celebrate! Best wishes! 🙂

  • yes, I do tend to get into their shoes and especially if the character is an antagonist, I feel horrible.
    A writer ought to do that to understand those emotions and portray it better.

  • Lady Lilith says:

    I am not a writer but I can see how these issues can be hard to deal with. It makes me appreciate the finished work more.

  • klahanie says:

    When my writing upsets me, heaven forbid, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar, takes over. Actually, I'm a character created by her.

    Thank you for being part of the dedication group of "I Was Seeking Gary."

    Penny's imaginary human,


  • While reading a novel yes if I can connect to the emotions and characters their feelings become mine! I remember I was in my teens when I read 'Babar' and I felt his emotions as a kid, fell in love with him when he grew up, felt a sort of respect when he grew old and weeped alot when he died… So as that novel progressed my life in that also progressed… Even a few short stories did that magic too…. And there are some reads that couldn't take my attention!

  • propelsteps says:

    It depends a lot on the story, if the fiction is close to our lives then the impact is obvious and we get along with that character. 🙂 – Din

  • The other day I strongly connected with my character, and it was really weird because it had never happened before. Also I'm not exactly the most emotional person. I think once the writer can connect with their characters, the readers will be able to, also. And then you're golden. 😉

  • Lexa Cain says:

    I'm always happy when my characters win in the end, but I don't feel sorry for their struggles. I feel more sorry for me, struggling to write them. I'm sure I'd feel different if I wrote a series – I'd get used to my characters, see them as friends – but writing a series is a no-no if you want to break into the big publishers. Wishing you get over the blues soon.

  • M Pax says:

    I'm pretty sure my characters are waiting to take a swipe at me… or kill me in my sleep. 🙂 I enjoy the time I spend with them though. Perhaps that's why many of us write series.

  • I definitely feel my characters' emotions.Even when I'm doing horrible things to them, I can feel their pain. Hopefully, that means I'm writing those emotions well and the reader will empathize as well.

  • T. A. Miles says:

    This happens to me all the time writing characters, because they're people. When people are upset, I get upset. Characters are no different and when I write, they're actually the ones living those moments, not me. In fact, there is no me. Sometimes(oftentimes) even when I'm not writing the characters are fully present and thinking about their lives. I broke down yesterday when it occurred to one character just how deep the rift between him and his brother had gotten to be. I want to say I hate that(because who likes to cry?), but I love it because they're so alive.

  • This happens to me a lot. Especially when I suddenly remember that my characters aren't real and I can't stop in and visit them.

  • Jo says:

    I certainly get "into" the characters in books I read and get involved with what they do. If not, the book isn't much good.

  • It's easy to miss them when you start something new. (As I'm finding out.) I try not to get into their heads too much though.

  • Visiting from the IWSG. I'll check back later for a post 🙂

    (And yes, I've missed my characters once a story is done…so I just write them into another story!)

  • I definitely feel my characters' emotions. I worry more that my readers won't like my characters—I certainly like them, but then again, I created them 😉

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