I have often wondered this: How attached are writers supposed to get to their characters? At the beginning of the writing process, when Sarah and I plan out a novel, we set each other different chapters to write, focusing on specific characters. Therefore, I have, for the most part, been writing the same characters for a decade. Naturally, I have grown incredibly fond of them. Flaws and all.
But lately, when I write chapters featuring them, I find myself being unable to write anything until I can get into their mind set. Until I can see myself as them. Often, they are going through something traumatic which requires me to deep-dive into their emotional state. I’m talking all-consuming loss, heartbreak and absolute fear.
Recently, and strangely, this has started affecting me. I find myself getting worked up, and irritable just like my character. Wringing my hands, taking deep breaths, pacing non-stop. I feel what they feel. If I’m writing something particularly harrowing, I have to take regular breaks to calm down; remind myself it’s my character going through these tough times, not me.
Does this make my writing flow better? Does it make the character’s emotion more realistic? Both yes, and no. It helps me know what I want to say. But finding the right words is more difficult. I feel what they are feeling, and agonize over trying to describe it perfectly.