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Blogging By the Sea
Friday, March 17 2017

March Round Robin topic is: Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?

As a reader, I remember one scene, actually a chapter, that I was listening to on audio in the car on my way to a meeting. It was an action/adventure thriller – a genre filled with angst and tension. When I got to my destination, I turned off the car and headed into the building with this intense feeling that I was late and needed to hurry. But when I got there, I was actually early. At first having no idea why I was feeling this intense need to get there. Only as the adrenalin rush wore off, did I realize I’d been so drawn into the immediacy of the story that I was feeling all the same anxious pressure the characters were feeling in a life or death situation. All I could think was WOW!  That was great writing.

As an author, I can only hope I can bring my readers to that kind of a precipice when they’re reading my books. I don’t write Action/Adventure, though, so my scenes aren’t going to leave my readers coming down from an adrenalin rush. As a pantser, I tend to write character driven stories, and since most of them are romance, there have been scenes that leave me drained emotionally. Some romance scenes: falling in love, making love, happy ever afters etc aren’t usually emotionally draining so much as leaving an emotional high. Either you have a wonderful world view that grows out of a satisfying romantic connection or you’re hunting for your mate and hoping you can get them as aroused as you are. But the scenes in romance that tend to leave me drained are the “Black Moments.” That crisis moment in the story when everything seems lost and your characters, and you, the author are going to get your heart broken.


In the most recent release in my Cameron’s of Tide’s Way series, my hero finds out something he feels the heroine should have told him herself, years ago, and he’s hurt and disappointed. What he started out as a conversation to find out what happened and why she hadn’t told him turns into an angry scene as his anger overcomes the hurt and any chance the heroine has to make her case. When she finally storms off, it seems like all is lost. When I finished writing that scene, I was emotionally drained and just as hurt as my hero, AND just as crushed as my heroine. I had to collect my dog and go for a walk on the beach while my emotions ebbed and the physical reactions calmed. I was surprised at the time because I hadn’t felt that bad when they said good bye all those years ago, even knowing what was going to happen to them. So, YES, there are scenes that leave me totally, emotionally drained.

My characters are very real to me. My stories are character driven so I spend a lot of time before the book even starts creating my characters, writing their backstory, learning who they are, what they like and what they hate, their favorite music and hobbies, their strengths and their faults. I know that motivates them and I know the dark things they try to hide from the world. I know what makes them vulnerable. SO, when the story finally gets underway, most of the time I never have to ask what they’d do next because I already know how they are going to react. But sometimes they surprise me. I created them and yet suddenly I find myself typing something about them I had no idea of before. Sometimes I have a plan for their story arc, and they plant their feet and defy me. They have other plans. I usually go with the flow and let them have their way. Other times I let them have their say and then we return to the plot I had in mind.

My characters are so real, I find myself sharing what’s happening to them with others, mostly other writers, but occasionally a friend or family member or even a reader. I talk about them as if they were real and the problems they are facing are real. Just like I would talk about something that happened to me, or to someone I know. My writer friends understand. My other acquaintances look at me as if I’m losing it.

But the time I know without a doubt that my characters have become real to me is when I write The End. Even on the first draft when I still have lots of editing and revising to do. I have this lost feeling like my best friend just up and moved to the other side of the country. I might email them or call them from time to time, but it will never be the same as it was while I was writing their story and they were living in my head. I know the story now, I know how it ends and they are leaving me. I miss them terribly until I begin the next book and find new friends to invest so much emotional capital in. I have a new sweatshirt that boasts in large letters across the chest: I am an author. That means I am creative, cool, passionate . . . and a little crazy. And maybe having people I’ve made up out of thin air become that real to me is a little crazy, but if it is, then I’m perfectly happy with crazy.

Want to know what other authors think?
Victoria Chatham 

Marci Baun  

Margaret Fieland

Judith Copek 
A.J. Maguire  
Connie Vines 
Rachael Kosinski 
Dr. Bob Rich   
Heather Haven 
Beverley Bateman
Kay Sisk 
Diane Bator 
Helena Fairfax  
Rhobin Courtright 

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 09:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  10 Comments  |  Email
A little crazy can be good Skye as long as those other characteristic come along with it. I often feel exactly the same, although I don't talk to anyone about my characters. I think all writers have to be emotionally involved with their main characters to tell their story no matter what the genre.
Posted by Rhobin on 03/18/2017 - 11:46 AM
I have learned to share my stories with my writer friends. When I do it with my husband, his eyes roll back in his head. LOL He's not as interested in the blow by blow. Another writer understands. As I read more and more of these posts, I realize that what's ailing me with my current WIP is that I'm so concerned about presenting her properly I have silenced her. (sigh) I must thank everyone for that. :)
Posted by Marci Baun on 03/18/2017 - 03:37 PM
It's interesting to me that you listen to audio books. I started listening to them because I do a fair amount of driving to and from Calgary. I've been so engrossed in a story that I've deliberately driven less than the speed limit on the highway just so I can hear more of it and even driven around the block a couple of times before parking just so I can hear the end of a chapter.
Posted by Victoria Chatham on 03/18/2017 - 07:45 PM
I love how you describe your characters becoming real, Skye. I talk about them with people, too, as I'm writing - mainly wondering what they would do in certain situations, and testing their characters as though they are real people. And when I've written The End I feel exactly as you do - that I've lost some good friends! I enjoyed your post!
Posted by Helena Fairfax on 03/19/2017 - 07:23 AM
I can't seem to write a biography for my characters before I've written the story. In fact, a lot of my stories and characters reveal themselves to me as I write my first draft. I greatly admire those writers who can plan ahead. There's a clear -- to me -- trade off with time spent up front planning and time on the back end revising. Ah, well.
Posted by Margaret Fieland on 03/19/2017 - 08:30 AM
Interesting how many of us in this post topic find our characters disturbingly real. I never realized how many writers have that in common, as it's not an oft-visited topic. I liked your anecdote of hurrying to get somewhere, driven by the stress in the story. :)
Posted by Judith Copek on 03/19/2017 - 11:37 AM
My characters are so real, I find myself sharing what's happening to them with others, mostly other writers, but occasionally a friend or family member or even a reader. I talk about them as if they were real and the problems they are facing are real. Skye, so very well said :-). As always, I look forward to reading your blog posts.
Posted by Connie Vines on 03/19/2017 - 06:33 PM
Skye, I agree with what you have written, but in addition, your illustrations have grabbed my attention. Do you make them up yourself?
Posted by Bob Rich on 03/20/2017 - 05:27 AM
I think being a little crazy comes with the job description. :) Sometimes a friend will mention a place like Egypt or Paris and I almost blurt out, "I've been there! I've been in underneath Karnak, and rescued a guy held in the forgotten dungeons of the Conciergerie!" Which of course I have not technically done, but my characters have.
Posted by Rachael Kosinski on 03/24/2017 - 09:18 AM
What a fun post and a writer needs writing friends. Those who understand the voices, the friendships with our characters and when we talk to them.
Posted by Beverley Bateman on 03/25/2017 - 12:22 AM

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    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida

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