What to do When You Can’t Connect to a Character in Your Novel

SHOW NOTES

Problems caused by a lack of connection to a character:

  1. Their voice isn’t distinct. It always sounds different or never sounds truly authentic to the character.
  2. The character doesn’t have anything to do in scenes or gets “lost” in scenes/conversations.
  3. The character is unemotional, melodramatic, or expresses emotions arbitrarily or inconsistently.
  4. You don’t enjoy writing them.

A common reason for a lack of connection is under development in a few key areas of characterization:

  1. Their motivation – The emotional driving force behind their goal. This may be the desire to shift from one “state” to another: from powerless to powerful, from lonely to loved, etc.
  2. Their false belief – Something the character believes about themselves, other people, or the world that is harmful. For example, “the only way to be powerful is to put yourself above others.” This is what changes to create the character arc (if an arc is present in the story).
  3. Their key traits – Positive traits built from the motivation and negative traits built from the false belief. These are tangible/identifiable traits that impact their actions and interactions with others. In other words, the outward manifestations of their motivation and false belief.

Solutions to try:

  1. Write out the motivation, false belief, and key traits. Start with the information you know and then brainstorm or extrapolate what you don’t know.
  2. Write out two key emotional scenes – the scene of backstory that created their false belief and the scene within the novel that has the highest level of emotion associated with the false belief or motivation.
  3. Look at photographs that emotionally resonate with you to help establish a connection to the character, then redo the previous two exercises.
  4. Make the character more similar to you by giving them a false belief or motivation that you find easier to relate to.

 

Tips for Gaining Distance from a Character You Love

Loving a character too much can cause issues with clarity in your novel due to a lack of distance between yourself and the character. In this video I go over the signs that you have a strong attachment to your character and writing tips and tricks that you can try right now to improve your novel and overcome this potential issue.

SHOW NOTES

 

How can you tell if you are too close to a character in your novel:

 

1. You just know you love them and can’t easily distance yourself.

2. Beta readers can’t connect to, don’t like, or don’t understand your character.

3. You feel like something is missing from scenes or emotions aren’t hitting the way you want them to.

4. You over justify their flaws by providing too much backstory or explanations for “bad” behaviors/actions.

 

Solutions/activities to try:

 

1. Ask beta readers specific but non-leading questions about their impressions of the character.

2. Make sure you’re conveying the emotional beats of the scene (motivation behind goal, feeling about obstacle, feeling/reasoning behind their response to obstacle).

3. Give the character a trait, flaw, motivation, or belief you don’t relate to.

4. Fall in love with a different/new character to help create some distance.

Professional Editor Critiques 225 Unpublished Novel Openings

Another Novel Boot Camp comes to a close! Thanks so much for everyone who participated, donated, shared my videos, and left comments of support and enthusiasm. I hope you feel like you walked away a stronger writer.

I did my best to get through as many novel openings as possible (with my sanity still intact). If your novel opening didn’t receive a critique, I’m sincerely sorry. I will do my best to post another set of critiques in the near future.  Continue reading

How to Write a Query (with examples of real successful query letters)

Query letters can be daunting! Today I’m going to break the query down into three sections to create an easy template/format you can use to write your own query. I’m also going to demonstrate how this template plays out in successful query letters.

Want to suggest a future video? Click here!

Check out all of these queries in their entirety here.

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