A writer’s reward

Previous topics in Rhobin’s Rounds

March Round Robin topic is suggested by Dr. Bob who wrote: My friend Anna Jacobs is a bestseller, with now 77 books published, although she is best known in Britain and Australia. She was complaining of being emotionally drained by writing a scene, and said, “Are you all sure our characters aren’t real?”

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

That’s two questions, and I have entirely different reactions to them.

How real are your characters to you?
My characters are MORE real to me than the three-dimensional, material people running around on this planet. This is because by the time I am well into writing a story, I know everything about them, and actually more than they know about themselves. I know their every thought, even those they refuse to acknowledge. I know their every emotion, and can predict how they will react to any situation. I love them all, even the baddies, and thank them for having come into my world.

Even the ones very different from me are expressions of myself. At the same time, they are the fruit of a lifetime of observation. As an introverted outsider-by-choice, I have always watched other people, and learned from them, and all this information is stored away. It’s there… somewhere. So, when I want a rebellious space rock, or a cowardly hero, or a wise old lady, they come, syntheses of many people from my past.

They are also my teachers. When facing a difficult situation, I often ask myself how one of my characters — Bill Sutcliffe or Sylvia Kryz, for example — would handle it. If I make a mistake, or react badly, I compare myself to a character whose behaviour I disapprove of, and this helps me to work out how I should do things the next time.

Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes?
Not usually. It does happen. In my series, The Stories of the Ehvelen, one of my favourites is Porcupine the Inventor. He is a handsome man famous for his wisdom, strength and agility (among a strong and agile people).

In one scene, he is reporting to his friends about his project of tricking a group of Doshi, who are their mortal enemies. He laughs, saying, “Maybe I should become a storyteller.”

That struck me between the eyes, and floored me. As author, I was required to make it come true. Only, among the Ehvelen, storytellers are people who have terrible physical handicaps, and have gained unusual wisdom through suffering. Porcupine didn’t know, but I did, that the terrible suffering was just ahead of him. I did not want to subject him to it… but I was forced to.

I knew what was to happen. One of his inventions was a person-carrying box kite that flew above the Doshi, terrifying them, because they had a myth of the Dra Chen, a flying, fire-breathing monster. On one of his flights, his Dra Chen had to catch fire, and burn his face, blinding him and making him horrifyingly ugly.

I had the details and consequences clear in my mind. All the same, I went onto a different part of the story, and was unable write this disaster for months.

Fortunately, while writing about subsequent events, I learned from his reaction to tragedy, and was inspired by it. He did become the Third Storyteller. From being the inventor who thought up many ways of killing Doshi, he became the healer who eased the pain of others struck by tragedy.

This, however, is an exception. For the most part, a successful session of writing — writing anything — leaves me feeling great.

German kitemaker Joachim Nellisen has the right idea. Only, Porcupine RODE his dragon.

Please leave me a comment below, then visit other participants in the blog round:
A.J. Maguire
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Diane Bator
Heather Haven
Helena Fairfax
Judith Copek
Kay Sisk
Marci Baun
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Rhobin Courtright
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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19 Responses to A writer’s reward

  1. okwriter says:

    An interesting twist on the topic. You say you don’t get involved, but if you can’t write en because you know what it will do to a character – You feel deeply about some characters. Loved the description of what you had to do to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr. Bob–it was like I heard the open chords of Beethoven’s Fifth symphony (that forbidding dun dun dun DUNNNN) when you realized what would happen to your character. I kind of love those moments. You didn’t plan it at all, but it makes perfect sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Skye. I look for public domain pics too, but yours are particularly good.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Skye-writer says:

    You asked about my illustrations – I presume you meant the artwork or photos accompanying my blog posts. Some of them are my own photos. Others are free ones I pull off the internet. I know I am drawn to reading posts more often when there are graphics to go with it, so I always try to add them to my posts, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. judyinboston says:

    I understand you are responsible for the blog topic! Great idea, because so much hinges on our relationships with our characters. They are like family. Sometimes we know them better. Congratulations on a superb topic and a good post. Love the illustration!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Judy.
      When I visited Boston (because my daughter was doing a post-doc at Harvard, brag, brag) I loved the local culture, and it gave me one of my sayings. Everyone in Boston said, “Have a good day,” so I replied, “Have a good life.” I am still doing that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Joan Y. Edwards says:

    I love the balloons! So cool. Thanks for sharing about your emotions when writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Skye-writer says:

    You make a good point about living in their skin and knowing more about them than even they know. Unlike you, they still surprise me. I’m typing along, I know where we are going and what’s going to happen and somehow my fingers type something very different. There are times I have to rebuke my characters and go back and fix the detour, but other times, I realize even I am learning something new about them and it’s actually better this way. Love your dragon story. I’d have had a hard time writing that scene too.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. wildchild says:

    My last book The Whispering House was a journey for me. I found as my character Eleanor made discoveries, so did I. My current WIP is challenging because it’s a different culture all together. I want to be true to that culture but also make it accessible to ours. This is where I am struggling. What I need to do is listen to my characters more and get out of my head.

    My daughter would want to ride that dragon. So would I. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      I guess I am used to that: almost all my stories need reality-building. You are right: tell it from within the culture.

      In my current story, a young man is trying to console an Aboriginal girl whose whole village had been massacred. Other Aboriginal people explain their culture to him, so I am also unobtrusively teaching the reader.

      My friend Porcupine had a flame and a container of oil with him, so his dragon could breathe fire down in the Doshi. They panicked more than their horses.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rhobin says:

    First, love kites and those in the photo are great. Next, it always amazes me when a character that I don’t think necessarily personify me, suddenly give me a moment of self discovery or insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Hi Rhobin,
      Maybe this is an illustration of the fact that all division is illusory. There is only the All. So, those very different from you are still aspects of you?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. J.Q. Rose says:

    I always enjoy finding out more about a writer’s process. So interesting to know you have such rounded characters in your mind before you write. But sounds as if you are flexible to allow them to break out from your pre-writing characterization. Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Janet. Well, the original people who demand I tell their story start rounded. Then we need to round up some more, and they need to introduce themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dr Bob Rich says:

    I agree, Michael. But often, it happens another way. I need a minor character in a scene, and next thing he expands his role and as he does, he becomes my friend. This is happening in my writing, right now.
    My current work is in 19th Century Australia. A group of drovers attacked an Aboriginal community, killing everyone so they could kidnap the 4 young women for their use. My protagonist is one of the community, who happened to be late home from work. The township is ruled by a good man, who has imposed his values. So, a posse goes after the criminals.
    I needed a young fellow to do a minor act: cut the girls’ bonds.
    He is now well on the way of becoming a major character, and I think will fall in love with one of the girls. I’ve been finding out about his history as he’s been chatting.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. MichaelEdits says:

    I can’t write about my characters until I spend some time “inside their skin,” so absolutely they are real to me. Long after I’ve published the book, in fact. Don’t ask me to remember my plots, but I remember my people. Which makes sense, because nothing can happen unless it happens to someone.

    Liked by 1 person

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