Emotional Baggage

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Car with emotional baggage glued on all sides

I am a discovery writer during the beginning of my stories. I taste, smell, and see things as my main character experiences them. This approach works for me because I need the freedom to be erratic and to explore the different paths of a story when completing my initial draft. In a way, not tackling the outline first relieves the pressure of the story. I can focus more on getting lost in the woods than trying to find my way back. But, a by-product of my organic writing is that I often need to go back and work on my main character’s emotional arc. I need to figure out what kind of emotional baggage they come with. Consequently, this helps me exploit them, and I end up creating a more dynamic character.

Blank Characters

With my flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to writing, I tend to have main characters that aren’t very active in my first drafts. The world happens to them more than they pursue something. I forget their emotional baggage because I’m too busy thinking about the secondary characters and worldbuilding. I only have so much room in my head to bring all these elements of a story to life at a time. Often, this will result in me facing a terrible bout of writer’s block somewhere between the halfway point and the end of the first draft. Point blank, it’s because I don’t know my main character as well as I should.

Emotional Baggage

To overcome this casual acquaintance, I’ll switch gears and start carving out an outline. One that consists of plotting my main character’s emotional arc. After I have this arc in place, I’m able to see my main character’s emotional baggage. That, in turn, allows me to see what things I may have to change within the story to fulfill the twists and turns of their character arc. This works well for me, but it could be you need to start with the outline before you even write the story. That’s cool, too. Tackle the emotional baggage in whatever way gets you writing and creating captivating characters. 


Check out these links for help on creating emotional arcs for your character and how to showcase emotions in your writing:

How to Write Character Arcs
Showing Emotion
Track Your Character’s Emotional Arc in a Scene

[Photo credit: Pyramis ]

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