My main character and I share a few things in common, like she lives in the suburbs where I grew up, and she isn’t so sure she fits in, which is an experience I am familiar with. Other than that though, she’s married, with kids – I’m not a wife or a mother, and she is stuck in the middle of a family drama unlike anything I’ve personally experienced. But then I took a workshop to Unlock the Story Within, with Alan Watt, and I learned we are a lot more alike then I thought.
The class sat down together in a small theatre and began by writing down the reasons we feared writing our stories. Things like: I’m afraid to upset the status quo, or what if it never makes any money, were just a few of the many reasons that came up. Imagine giving birth and telling your baby to get a job, Al joked. But then he asked us to look at our list and see whether there were any similarities between our fears and our character’s fears.
My list was dead on for my main protagonist. And the way out of my writing stuckness was to allow her to do everything I’m afraid of – in the story.
Now I have a character willing to be dirty, hurt her family, explore her roots, fail to relate to others, get smart about money, experience disapproval, get to know many characters, and explode every once in a while. She might not be someone you want to live with every day, but set her on the page and she becomes a whole lot easier to handle. And hell, she might even teach me a thing or two.