Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 26, 2008

A Tougher Love for my Characters

A few days ago, Becky Levine beckylevine posted about the need for writers of both nonfiction and fiction to love their subjects, and as usual, she made me think. In trying to move someone in and out of difficult situations, can we lose track of that falling in love feeling we had when a character, real or imagined, first grabbed us by the collar?

I’ve never written about someone I didn’t love. I’m a slow writer, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time hanging around someone I don’t like. Of course this poses problems. There’s a place for rough and wily antagonists, bullies, mean girls, dragons, hard core villains. And I try to note when my love for my character feels too protective or maternal. I don’t want this character to go off in the woods alone! She must not only listen to, but take my wise advice! Stop, look, listen – to me!

Wrong. Better to let the girl wander in the woods. Better to let her muddle through, make mistakes. The meddling mom has little place at my writer’s desk.

But love? Yes. The kind I’m trying to learn. Being there, but backing off when the time is right for her to venture out, mess up, crash and burn, fulfill a destiny of her own.



  1. Great post. I always tell my students: you can empathize with your characters…but never feel sorry for them!

  2. Up here there’s a commercial for Chucky Cheese (a place for kids to go and play games). It opens with the Mom wrapping her kids in duct tape and helmets before they go out to play. I feel like that Mom sometimes.
    And considering I like to write adventure stories, I have to learn to let go. Let them get into real danger . . . in over their heads.

  3. Great motto! I will try to remember.

  4. Oh, yes, I need to see that commmercial.
    And yes.. let them in over their heads… but was this written before or after the horrifying ice incident???

  5. Jeannine,
    Once again, you’ve got me thinking! I know how hard this is, pushing our MCs out there–but, in a way, I think this may be a kind of love. As in, having confidence in our character’s strength and ability to win through.

  6. written before or after the ice incident . . .
    I think it was written after! LOL

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