Writers love to procrastinate. How can I possibly write 1,000 words today when I have to do four loads of washing? And the dishes? And prepare and cook dinner? And run baths? And get kids in bed?
And bake cupcakes for no reason? And sing Old Macdonald 50
,000 times? And issue impromptu tickle attacks? And build a cubby out of cushions? And deal with tantrums?
And check facebook? And check my email? Again? And again?
But my procrastination starts before all of this. It starts in the story planning stage. The character development stage.
I convince myself I can’t write about this or that character. Because – HEAVEN FORBID – (insert name of friend or family member) might think that I am writing about them.
How do you write a story without referencing the people you’ve met?
I mean it. How do you do it? How do you build a character – their likes, loves and loathes, their traits and idiosyncrasies, not to mention their physical characteristics – without picturing someone in your head?
I don’t mean recreating entire people from your life. Although I’m sure that happens too.
But the way this character bites his nails, and that character constantly unties and reties her hair, and this other character always says, “6am in the morning”, and this other character always rolls her eyes and responds with, “as opposed to 6am in the evening?” How do you write about those without picturing someone in your head? Someone who does or says something a bit like that. A lot like that. Exactly like that.
I’m guessing the answer is that you can’t. In fact, I’m guessing that there is someone in my life who has read the examples above and already thinks I’m writing about them!
I’m also guessing that I just need to let it go. Because even if I did sit down at the computer and painstakingly create a brand-new character unlike anyone I’d ever met, the people in my life would find something to identify with.
They’d fish around and, when I didn’t say anything, they’d ask me outright. “Is Margaret me? Am I Margaret? I didn’t think so, but then she twirled her hair and said this, and I thought…” And no matter how much I denied it – in fact, probably because I denied it – they wouldn’t believe me.
When you write, the people around you will assume you’re writing about them.
So if people are going to assume they’re in my story, I may as well put them in there in the first place.
And just WRITE THE BLOODY STORY.
Come on, Emily. You can do it! After all, everyone loves a dinosaur murder mystery set in Antarctica, right?
(Note to self: keep brainstorming story ideas.)
Each month, I receive a writing prompt as part of a link-up called Writers Reveal. This post was inspired by the prompt ‘People of the Past, Characters of the Future’ from J.C. Wolfe at the Wolfe’s Den.
You can see what everyone else has done with the same prompt at:
Do you write? How do you develop your characters – do you draw inspiration from the people in your life?