Lately I’ve been struggling with creating brand new characters after having written four books in a single series. One thing that’s always been hard for me is showing the main character’s inner life and feelings.
As I got to know my characters over the four books, it became easier, but now I'm starting from scratch.
The standard Show Don’t Tell advice was so drilled into me during college writing classes that I became afraid to share anything about my characters’ thoughts, past, and emotional baggage.
I often need a separate rewrite completely focused on making sure the characters’ emotions come through.
It’s especially challenging now because in my new Q. C. Davis mystery series my main character had a significant childhood trauma and in response became a very controlled, driven, and outwardly calm person.
That’s why this Friday I’m recommending an article from The Creative Penn: What Is Emotional Shielding and Why Does it Matter For Your Character? by Becca Puglisi.
The concept is that humans-and so characters-who suffer deep emotional wounds find a way to protect themselves from similar pain in the future.
That way, though, often leads to unhealthy behavior or coping mechanisms that cause other challenges or more pain as they go forward in life.
Even if your characters don’t have a particular single trauma to get past, the points in Puglisi's article can help walk you through how your characters cope with painful experiences and hard times and how that influences who they become and how they act at the time your story takes place. (How's that for ending on a run-on sentence?)
L. M. Lilly
P. S. For more on developing your characters, feel free to download my Free Character Tip Sheet/Questionnaire.