Eat (All) the Ice Cream

When I was at YAKfest the other weekend, one of the student’s asked, “Do you ever take on characteristics of your characters while you’re writing?” Specifically, I think she said, if your character’s a crabby person, do you become more crabby, and so on.grumpy-cat-entertained

Let’s ignore, for the moment, the larger problem that if your character is so unpleasant that your friends don’t want to be around you while you’re writing him/her, is anyone going to want to be around that character for a whole book.

The deal is (as I expounded in my Wise Mentor way) that it might not be the character making you crabby. It’s easy to fall into the stereotype of the reclusive, absentminded, cranky and iconoclastic writer.

Why?

  1. Aren’t writers and artists supposed to be eccentric?
  2. A lot of people who like to write do so because they like their own company best, anyway.
  3. It’s annoying to have to come out of your fantasy world and interact with real people, people who often want you to Do Things, when you’d rather be slaying Orcs with your Dashing Hero in your head.
  4. Your friends and family don’t always understand that just because you’re up and walking around the kitchen physically doesn’t mean you’re not still in Orc-land trying to solve The Riddle of Eternal Riddleness in your head. So when they talk to you and you don’t answer, or worse, you answer in Orcish, or worse, you snap at them for distracting you when you almost had the answer… it can lead to hurt feelings.
  5. If your writing style is to fully immerse yourself in your book, where you basically go in your cave for three weeks and don’t emerge until the thing is done, then the people on the outside–the ones you turn down for dates or parties, or ignore when they want to go out for ice cream–might not be there when you come out of your writing hibernation.

I speak from experience. I have been guilty off all these things. (Except number two, which is more of being most comfortable with myself more than liking myself best.)

My advice to the student with the question was this:

First, if your character is a douche, that’s not an excuse for you to be one, too.

Second, take time to eat the ice cream so that you will still have friends when you’re done with your book. Writing is a lonely endeavor, but don’t make your life more lonely by forgetting there are real people in the world as well as imaginary ones.

Wise Mentors are sometimes good at giving advice that we need to give ourselves most of all.

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