Divorcing Yourself From Your Characters

Well now, this is tricky.

You’ve had something horrible happen to you…or maybe something great. And you’ve decided to turn it into a story. You fictionalize it, add some magic, some name changes and bam, you have…


You do, you really do. I know this really happened to you but this isn’t you any more. This is a character whose story is based of events in your life. You thought ly darlings were hard to kill…well nothing compares to the bitches that are you. This not only Mary Sue, it’s Super Mary Sue: the Armageddon.

1. Emotional Investment.

The emotional attachment you have to your characters is pretty tight. But when that character is really living your life you can’t bare the thought of parting with those details. A lot of times you’re writing the story to get it out of you, to break that black hole into little pieces and stomp them into dust. So do it, write the whole damn thing out. Don’t stop, edit or add. Just write.

Then put it away.

Not for a month, or six but for a year. You have to remove yourself from the process of bleeding on the page. Why so long? Because this isn’t only your story…it’s you and it can’t be if it’s going to get good.

2. But It’s My Life

No, it’s not. It’s your characters life. You’re going to have to edit the crap of this to answer questions like why aren’t the police involved, why on gods earth did you say yes and similar questions. Don’t rationalize your decisions, if it is a bad one in a story (though it may be great for real life) then toss it out and change it. What begins as a cathartic exercise can either stay that way or become story.

3. Decisions

It was cathartic to get it out…maybe killing the bad guy in the story but…can it really be more than that? Look at it…would you really have read this on your own. Is there really a market for this? Maybe it needs to go back in that drawer. Maybe it’d be best to burn it.

I wrote about one of the most painful periods of my life, when I had no friends to turn to, no one to talk to and my entire life was falling appart. I didn’t embellish, add or fantasize I wrote down the horror in its entirety let it sit. Later when I came back to it (and had critique comments, ugh) I realized the crap for what it was, a way to get all the horrible things out of my being.

Whisper to yourself, but this true, realize that no one cares and go write a good story.

A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.Samuel Goldwyn






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