*J.K. Rowling is exceptionally good at going to hell and back with her characters and I think this is one of the reasons she managed to churn out literary classics in her own time. Don’t panic. I’ve accepted I’m no J.K. Rowling. But, we can still learn a thing or two from her. I highly recommend watching the documentaries which come with the Blu-Ray and DVDs. You can learn a lot.*
The first time a writer finishes a novel, she soon figures out that the personal cost is emotional hell. If she avoided it in the writing, she’ll get hit with it by her critique partners. You can’t have a story without Conflict and Primal Emotions. And that means you have to go to hell and back with your characters.
You feel everything they feel and you will get to a point in the story when it’s just too much. Sometimes, that just means you need a break. Go write on something else.
This came to mind because I’m working on Descriptions and Continuity for A Vintage Heart in Hollywood for an editor. I’ve been having a really hard time getting myself to really describe my characters. I think I’ve figured out it’s because of that ‘going to hell’ thing.
This is why doctors aren’t allowed to operate on their own kids, I think. Or, so I’ve been told.
A few years ago I was writing a story about a woman who becomes the default leader of a survivors’ colony following a world-wide pandemic. I just couldn’t finish it. I kept trying. And trying and trying.
The woman loses her husband and one of her children to the pandemic. I have a husband and four children of my own. My character’s grief was just not something I could endure. So, I shelved it. Maybe one day I’ll be emotionally mature enough to handle it and finish the story.
I’ve critiqued and reviewed a lot of stories of the years. One of the things I see holding storytellers back is not going to hell and back with their characters. It’s hard. I know.
Hang in there. 😉
My favorite J. K. Rowling interview ‘A Year in the Life’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6-6zaa4NI4