November 29, 2017

Your Characters Are Important



I quit NaNoWriMo. 

*Accepts condolences* But don't feel too bad for me. :) I haven't thought about it much at all, and when I do, I feel surprisingly okay about it. And besides—I did manage to get 20,000 words down for my Snow White retelling. That's something.

I admit I have been a little curious as to why I suddenly felt so unmotivated for my story. After all, the I won NaNo last year and completed Camp NaNo this spring, too! I think there was actually more than one reason that my NaNo was unsuccessful this year, but I want to talk about one specific thing, something I'm sure we ALL struggle with.

I'm going to call it "writer's comparison".

Let me illustrate. 'Hem. Once Upon a Time, you may stumble across a brilliant story idea. You think about this idea constantly, you spin out a plot, dream cast your characters and save any picture that reminds you even remotely of your story. All's going well, you're about ready to write and then....

And then it happens. Those glorious daydreams just won't translate themselves to the page, and you're left wondering if your story wasn't all that great after all. Your characters won't DO what you thought they would. They're boring and unoriginal and-and-and why is it your brain has only three phrases for describing character actions: "he looked up" "he smiled" "he looked away" ??!



But, faithful to your original love, you try to plod along with your story.

Until that day.

Unsuspecting of your impending doom, you settle down to watch a new movie or read a new book. You fall utterly in love with it. Something about the characters, or the plot, or the dialogue just speak to your soul. 

Then you sit down to write and find that........... you can't.

 You can't even write those stupid little phrases you find yourself overusing. You can't because....you don't care. You feel no interest in your precious story. No love. No excitement.


Nothing.

Why is this? Well, I'll tell you. Because writer's comparison is the thief of joy has left you feeling that your own story is utter trash and nothing you can do will make it as good as the story you just fell in love with.

You'll now have to retreat to the woods and abandon your plans of becoming a published author because it's hopeless at this point. You're lost forever. Bye-bye.

probably Arthur's actually reaction

*end example story*
(but stick around for the happy ending)

Yup, that's what happened to me this NaNo. It's happened before, to be honest. And I'm QUITE certain it will happen again. 

You see, my brother and I have been slowly watching all the Marvel movies and in the middle of November we finally watched Captain America: Civil War*, which was SO AMAZING WHAT EVEN (hopefully I can share some of my thoughts in a different post someday:)). Not only did it break my heart and crush my soul and leave me hopelessly in love with Bucky Barnes, it left me with very little writing inspiration because....

(say it with me)


WRITER'S COMPARISON


I can't help but compare my characters to the characters of CACW. Steve Rogers. Bucky Barnes. Tony Stark. Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton,Wanda Maximoff, Sam Wilson, Peter Parker, and the list goes on and on and on.

Those characters are FUN and inspiring and really precious to me. They've made me cry, laugh, and just plain happy. They're like a group of new best friends and I love them all so much.



So, when I sit down with my own characters, I can't help but compare them to the Avengers. 
And I then have no motivation to write, because my characters feel stupid and boring compared to the Avengers. 

And so I hide from my characters, and quit NaNoWriMo.

forgive me, Arthur, I've disappointed you

It's really disappointing how bad your own story feels after reading or watching a really good one. 
At least, that's what happens in my experience. Rather than inspire me to better my writing, I feel like I'll never love my stories the way I love Captain America: Civil War. Or Lord of the Rings. Anne of Green Gables. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

THE COMPARISON POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS, FRIENDS.





But today, while taking my dogs for a walk, a thought struck me. Or, more to the point, a phrase.

My characters are important. 

If Captain America inspires me, who's to say Arthur* may not inspire someone else?
If Bucky Barnes can break my heart who's to say Neven* might not break someone else's? 
If Tony Stark makes me laugh, who's to say Henry* may not make someone else laugh as well?

I never quite thought of it this way before.


*Neven, Arthur, and Jacob are all characters from my retelling of Princess and the Pea, set to be published someday before I die, here's hoping.


Even if I do "fall out of love" with my own characters sometimes, well, that's okay. They're still my characters, and I'm in this for the long run with them. It's what we writers sign up for when we put pen to paper.

Even if I my characters never impact me the way Captain America or Frodo Baggins or Elinor Dashwood do, that's okay.*

Because my characters may impact someone else.

*For the record, I'm not saying my characters haven't  impacted me. Because they have. But sometimes it's easy to forget that, I think.


I read a quote once that said something like, 
"Remember. You're writing someone's future favorite character."

Think about that. 

All of my favorite characters—characters who encourage me, inspire me, and keep me hopeful—were all once just ideas in someone's head.

Just like the characters in your head—and mine—are now.

Your characters are important. Don't ever give up on them.
Because someday...they may inspire someone else not to give up, too.
^ So moving. Hopefully the world never has another Holocaust and the genocides stop.
this is beautiful <3

So, the moral to this story? Don't give up. Those spells of writer's block or low-inspiration moments will pass.

And as for me, I may have failed NaNo, but that doesn't mean I've failed my characters. I'm going to keep helping them along in their story. Because someday, I want you all to meet them and feel as inspired by them as I will be by your characters.

Keep writing, writers. 

37 comments:

  1. "Because giving people stories is not a luxury. It's actually one of the things that you live and die for."

    This is very very important.

    We have been given a gift, and a responsibility: the gift of storytelling. And if we don't use it, WHO WILL?

    I know exactly what you mean; about comparing yourself and your skills as a writer to others, and just feeling really discouraged and wanting to give up . . . but we can't give up. Because--like you said--there's someone out there who needs our story, who needs our characters, and we need to keep writing, for them.

    (Like you. You always tell me how much you love my characters--and that makes me want to keep going, even when I'm really not feeling confident about myself as an artist. And I appreciate that. So thank you <3 )

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    1. EXACTLY. I guess it would be ungrateful to NOT use our storytelling talents to give God glory and to help people...He certainly didn't give us the gift of writing for us to stuff it into our closet and never use it. <3 Thank you for that reminder, dear friend.

      (<3 <3 <3 You're the best. *hugs*)

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  2. I'm having some similar issues...more of the I-can't-translate-my-story-into-words than anything else.

    Your post reminded me very much of why I write. Thank you!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    1. I have that problem very often. :( What sounds good in my head seems utterly boring and bland on paper! But keep trying. It's only through practice and perseverance that we writers can get better. I know you can do it!!

      Thank YOU! I'm so glad it was helpful. :)

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  3. Oh, this was such a good reminder, Natalie! Thank you for the post, I really needed it. :)

    I definitely struggle with writer's comparison, also. I read other friends' stories, or good published books, then look at my work and feel as though it was written by a 10 year old. But I know it's not as bad as I think, and I have a feeling that there is a reason why I've always loved stories, and that I should continue it.

    Also, that was such a good point I'd never thought of - that MY characters could impact someone else, even be THEIR favourite character! What a thrilling idea! My, that DOES inspire the writer within me. :D Thanks for this, dear friend! <3 <3 <3

    Don't ever stop writing. <3

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    1. Oh, and yes, thought I should mention that I personally don't find the Avenger characters that deep or inspiring, IMHO, so maybe you should keep in mind that though you and some people may find your characters shallow and uninteresting, everyone has a different opinion, relates to certain things and sees other things differently, so write those characters for the people who WILL appreciate them! <3

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    2. Thank you, Gabby!! I'm really glad it was helpful. :)

      Same. But I guess it's almost encouraging that we DO all feel that way about our stories...because it just means that we're all our own worst critics, not that our stories are actually as bad as we think they are. (Okay, that made more sense in my head...)

      I think you should continue, too. <3

      I know, right?? When I first came across that quote it was a very exciting and encouraging thought. :D

      Thank you and YOU TOO!! <3 I can't wait to read your books one day. I know they'll be grand.

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    3. Oh, forgot to respond to your second comment--THANK YOU! I totally get that the Avengers isn't everyone's thing. I guess I just feel sad when I like other characters even better than my OWN. Because I want my characters to be as special to me as other fictional characters I love....but I totally agree with what you're saying. Everyone is inspired by different things, that for sure. <3 I already feel much better about my characters than I did when I wrote this post...so I think I have to learn to live with the ups and downs! :D

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  4. This was a great post, Natalie! :D:D:D
    BTW, on a rabbit trail here, I went to your Pinterest to follow you... and found out that YOU were the Natalie that I've been following for almost a year. I had no idea, I just randomly came across your Pinterest last year and followed you, and then stumbled across your blog last month! I thought you might like to know, :D.

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    1. Thanks, Victoria!!

      Oh, fun! I'm glad you told me that. It's always cool when coincidences like that occur. :D

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  5. Oh my word! ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME CRY???! And yes, that would TOTALLY be Arthur's reaction because if you never write again that's the same as saying you're abandoning him and his story and leaving him and all he cares about in a half-existent state! YOU CAN'T DO THAT!! *shakes you* (Waaaaaahh. That Arthur gif is just TOO sad!!)

    Okay. Calming down. I will now continue reading this post and comment as I go along...

    I actually totally understand what you mean about getting caught up in another story and then comparing it to yours and feeling absolutely certain that yours could never been worth writing! It's annoying when you feel that way, but it's definitely hard not to sometimes.

    Hold on a minute! You hid from YOUR characters because of the Avengers??? Oh Natalie. I'm thinking I'm gonna have to watch the super hero movies now, if only to prove to you that not everyone loves 'em as much as you do and therefore more people are gonna love you're characters then you think. (Okay, so I don't know that I wouldn't love the characters in the super hero movies, maybe after all I would. But I'm just going off the feeling I have for those movies from the snippets I've seen or things I've heard. They've just never inspired me with a whole lot of interest. Sound a bit too boring and "bam-bam" for my taste. And how can get into characters who are from such boring movies?? ;)) (You can scold me for such an opinion if you like. Haha. :))

    YES! Ohmyword!! YOU ARE SO RIGHT!!! And you can say that again! YOUR CHARCTERS TRULY ARE IMPORTANT!! Seriously, you have no idea what's happening in the imagination of those who are reading your stories, and that's half of what makes a book come alive, what the reader brings to it. I bet every author disliked their work at one point or another, or was never FULLY satisfied with it. But we readers, we don't know what the author was imagining in their head, we only know what they got down on paper and that IS the story to us. And that is what captured our imaginations. So it's perfect. Even if the author could think of one or two or three hundred ways of improving it after the fact!

    (Henry certainly makes someone laugh. ;D)

    "...set to be published someday before I die, here's hoping." (Haha. And you do, too. What optimism!! ;))

    Yes exactly. They may impact someone else!! And I think that makes sense, too, that your own characters wouldn't impact you in the same way someone else's characters do. It's different when they came out of your own head, you know.

    "Remember. You're writing someone's future favorite character." Awwww. I love that!! I'm going to have to remember that one.

    That last quote, too. Wow. That really does add a new level of importance to the whole story writing thing. Thanks for including that. <3

    You're amazing!! And yes, don't ever give up! *hugs* (And you didn't fail NaNo either. YOU WROTE 20,000 words!! That's NOT a failure!! Isn't that what you told me last year for my piddling little 7,000 words? Well, now I'm telling you. Heehee. ;))

    Great post, Natalie!!

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    1. *is horrified that Miss March does not appreciate the glory that is the Avengers* :-P

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    2. Deal with it, Jessica. ;P Haha.

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    3. *withdraws in great scandalization*

      :-P

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    4. Miss March,
      I'M SORRRRY. I certainly wasn't TRYING to make you cry. Aww. Now I feel bad. Bad Dobby!! heehee ;) But thank you for reminding me of that. I definitely can't leave Arthur in the lurch like that. His story deserves to be told and I can't betray his confidence. <3

      Yeah. It certainly is hard. :/ I know the feeling usually passes, but when I'm in the middle of comparing my story with another one...it just all feels so hopeless!

      I AM SCOLDING YOU FOR YOUR OPINION. Miss March. Really now. You HAVE to stop making this prejudiced judgments on things before you try them! Like you and coffee. :P (*is horrified like Jessica* ;))

      Try watching a few superhero movies (I'd especially recommend Captain America, Avengers, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War....in that order) and THEN we can talk. If you still don't like the characters then...well, I don't know. :P It's still good to try something before you judge it. ;)

      Awww. I love what you said!! Especially: "you have no idea what's happening in the imagination of those who are reading your stories, and that's half of what makes a book come alive, what the reader brings to it." SO TRUE.

      (I thought of you when I wrote that about Henry. <3)

      It IS different when they came out of my own head. They're still SO special to me, but I tend to be more critical of them than other characters...because after all I'm responsible for shaping them and helping them grow into who they should be and I want to do it WELL.

      I'm glad you like those quotes. :)

      AWwwwww. THANK YOU!! Very true. I didn't consider your word count a failure AT ALL so I certainly shouldn't consider mine a failure.

      *HUGS*

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    5. "No! Dobby, don't! Stop it, Dobby!!!" Heehee. ;) Don't feel bad. It was sad, but I didn't actually, LITERALLY cry, so you're okay. And yes, you certainly can NOT leave Arthur in the lurch like that. (That would be REAL bad Dobby. ;P If you do that I give you permission to bang your head against the wardrobe as many times as you think fitting. Haha. ;))

      I KNOOOOOOW!! It really is such a hopeless feeling.

      Hey! It's a free country isn't it? I can have whatever opinion I want!! *humph* (But I like making prejudiced judgments on things, Natalie. It's a family trait. It's what we do best. Heehee. ;))

      Okay. Maaaybe I'll try them one day. For you. But we'll see. They just haven't interested me all that much yet. ;) (You and Jessica. Be scandalized if you want to...I don't care. *shrugs* Heehee. ;))

      (Did you? Awwww. <3 <3 <3)

      Aw, that's true. And because we do love our own characters so much that just adds to the pressure because we want to make sure they're coming across properly to everyone else. You know? :) You WILL do it well! I have confidence in you! Don't give up!!

      *hugs*

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    6. I'm so happy you kept me from banging my head against the wardrobe only to tell me to do it if I leave Arthur truly in the lurch. :P Some friend you are. (kidding ;))

      You know, I was all ready to scold you for LIKING to make prejudiced judgments when I remember that I kind of do that all too often myself so....yeah. Guess I can't really say anything. :/

      Thank you. :) Maybe we can try them together someday. :D

      (Of course!! <3)

      "And because we do love our own characters so much that just adds to the pressure because we want to make sure they're coming across properly to everyone else." EXACTLY!! ♥ Awwww. Thank you so so so much. *hugs back*

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  6. Natalie!! This post is fantastic!! And spot on!! I find myself doing this so often but I've never been able to put a "title" or "name" too it. Well besides, depressing.

    In my personal experience, I've also noticed that when I've seemingly given up all hope on my writing I'll return being "curious" and just find myself reading what I've written trying to ignore the errors and just getting a feel for the "bones", as they say. The most surprising things stick out to me...and I'll find that I'm not actually that bad. Some of my original intentions and ideas are showing through and aren't half bad! What a miracle!! Hahaha. I'm still in need of some polishing and I'm not up to par but I won't feel like it's the pile or stash of worthlessness. ;P Therefore, as you said, NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR CHARACTERS!!

    I really loved this, Natalie!!

    ~Cordy

    P.S. 20,000 words IS NOT a fail. Just so you know. (Especially when compared to my tiny 10,000 word manuscript.)

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    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH, CORDY!!! Depressing is indeed the word for it! As if we writers didn't have ENOUGH problems already. :P

      That's awesome! I think I've experienced something a little similar. I mean, I have some stories I KNOW I'll never write...but parts of them (whether characters or settings) may make it into a future story because, as you said, "Some of my original intentions and ideas are showing through and aren't half bad!" :D

      I'm really glad you liked it!!! I honestly feel that writing this post and hearing everyone's similar experiences was super encouraging to me. I'm so happy if this post encouraged you, to. <3

      PS. Awwwww. THANK YOU. Same to you! 10,000 words is fantastic!!

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  7. *pats you on shoulder* the first part of this post really got me. *sniffles*
    Good job letting yourself know that your characters ARE STILL IMPORTANT.
    *nods head* * leaves*

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    1. Aww. Thank you! I'm really glad you liked this post, Lissa. :D

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  8. Wow, 20,000 words sure sounds like a lot to me! I totally know what you mean with the writer's comparison. I've actually hardly written anything more than blog posts and school papers for the past years because of it. But this inspired me to try picking it up again, so thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Abby!! An ahhhh THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY TO HEAR. I hope your writing goes well!!!

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  9. Oh, the struggles of writing. Characters, plots, scenes.. .it's all so dreadfully HARD, isn't it?
    Yes, characters are sure important. In fact, they are EVERYTHING. It really hurts when we can't do them justice with our words. We try to tell how amazing they are, and somehow, they fall flat in a ridiculously bad rough draft. :P
    I know how it feels. I applaud you, for writing this post, for thinking better of the whole thing rather than just 'what a failure I am' or some other such nonsense.
    I tell you Natalie, it is not to be borne.

    So I say, good for you. You are incredibly brave.
    And you know what? Every year has November! So there is always room to try again, to get your spirits up about your story, to find the true expression of your characters.
    But who has to wait for November, anyways? There is January, February, and a host of other months to be written in.
    Great post, dear. :) I wish you well.
    -Amaris

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    1. It IS dreadfully hard, Amaris!! We writers have a rather horrid time of it. :P

      I agree. Stories aren't anything without their characters. And yes! I think that's it, sometimes. In my head, I know exactly how amazing and special they are...but translating that to paper is more difficult than I can imagine sometimes!

      THANK YOU. <3

      Great point! I have no clue whether I'll be able to do NaNo next year, but I certainly hope to keep writing in the mean time. :)

      Thank you and same to you!!

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  10. Oh. My. Word. Just amazing, Natalie! Thank you! I wish you the best in your writing endeavors.

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  11. This is just -- this is amazing, Natalie. Really, truly, an amazing post.

    Thank you so much for this. Just . . . thank you. We shall chat sometime soon. <333

    I don't know if I'd ever thought of it like that before: My stories/characters could be someone else's favorites someday. Wow. <3

    Also, that quote from Neal Gaiman?!?! W.O.W.

    THIS POST IS AMAZING. THANK YOU. I love you so much. <3

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    1. AHHHH THANK YOU, OLIVIA. :D

      Yes we shall. :)

      Really? Aww. I wish I shared that quote sooner, then! <3

      I KNOW, RIGHT.

      THANK YOU I LOVE YOU SO MUCH TOOOO. <3
      (PS. Your Susan story is going so well. Don't ever give up on it. Please. :))

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    2. ALL THE YES <3 <3 <3 <3

      (And awwwwwwwww, thank you so, SO much. That really means a lot to me. :))

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  12. Bravo! I feel like you've just made the breakthrough that separates people who write once in a while for fun from... writers. Not giving up even when you realize your characters are not the most perfect characters ever, that your plots are not the most original ever, that your descriptions are not the most unique ever, and so on -- that's what truly separates those who are writers from those who write sometimes.

    Write at the best of your ability. The more you write, the better your abilities will be come. Really, the only comparison you should be making is with yourself -- are you better at this than you used to be? Well and good. Are you worse? Let's just assume you're not worse ;-)

    Also, does Arthur happen to look like Tom Hiddleston, by chance? Cuz I'm really happy with Tom Hiddleston right now, following Thor: Ragnarok...

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    1. Wow, THANK YOU, Hamlette!! Hearing that makes me so happy. <3 You just encouraged me A LOT. Thank you.

      Very true. It's just so easy to forget! ;P I am definitely better than I used to be. I guess I should keep that in mind and stop comparing myself to other writers. :D

      Yes, he most certainly does!!! Oooh, I haven't seen Ragnorak, but I've heard good things about it. I'll probably see it after it comes out on dvd sometime. :)

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    2. Comparing yourself to other writers can be helpful, if you're trying to learn from them. Like, "I really admire so-and-so's dialog -- what is it about it that I like, and how can I incorporate that into my own work?" But if you're just like, "I will neeeeeeeever be a good writer because I'm not as good as XYZ author!!!!!!" then that's destructive, not constructive.

      (I know, cuz I get trapped in this cycle sometimes too. I think we all do.)

      Ragnarok rocks, and I love it to tiny, over-hugged pieces. (That made no sense.)(Sorry.)(It's true, though. I do.)

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    3. True. I do like figuring out what kind of writing I like best, using my favorite books as guides. But I definitely compare in the bad way all too often. :/

      (<3)

      I totally understand that feeling about certain books and movies! :D (It made sense to me. ;))

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  13. Natalie:
    By the way, I wanted to let you know I tagged you over at my blog! I totally understand if you're too busy though. :) But here is the link if you want to do it!
    https://thestorybookjournal.blogspot.com/2017/12/winter-wonderland-tag.html
    -Amaris

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