Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Friday Already?


Here be my confession:

This week I have been addressing the sponginess of Chapter Six and trying to give it some backbone. I realised that I have been inadvertently giving the character to whom this chapter belongs watered-down reactions. She was being fuzzy, not true to herself, and far too reasonable. So I spent a bit of time writing about her in my notebook. I find that writing with pen and paper helps me to be more intuitive and free. Writing on the computer is good for shaping and arranging, but most of my best creative ideas come with pen in hand. (A chai latte helps too.) I wrote in the first person, trying to find the lies that she tells herself. That helped me rescue the first two-thirds of the chapter, but I am going to have to do it again in order to raise the level of crisis in the last third.

Why do I want my characters to be likeable? Two of my three main characters have been deliberately chosen because they are struggling with ego, and that means that they can be selfish, thoughtless, cruel and hurt people around them. This character is being too damn nice. I need to free-write again tonight, find the hooks and barbs in her personality, her limitations and boundaries. I also need to flesh out one of the secondary characters, who is being a bit bland. His nuances need to shine.

Next week, I leave for my six-day writing retreat in Berlin. It is now booked into the family calendar, and my unofficial writing cheerleader, my husband, has signed on for duty. He will have secondary back-up in the form of Grand-dad. I hope the five of them will have fun while I am gone.

The current word count stands at 40,601 and I plan to be able to tell you in two weeks time, when I confess again, that that number has increased significantly. I’m hoping that six days dedicated to writing, with no Internet access, will mean great chunks of writing.

Good luck with your writing, Friday ‘Fessors, and other writers out there. I hope the next two weeks bring you inspiration, energy and above all, time to write.


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

13 thoughts on “Friday Already?

  1. What an interesting question – “why do my characters have to be likeable?”

    I have struggled for years to separate my responses to someone from whether or not I like or dislike them. It’s a tough discipline, but it’s what lies at the heart of Buddhism and Christianity. Massively harder if you are the characters’ creator though. Mind you there are some writers who only seem able to write about people who are all entirely unpleasant, which is the same problem in reverse.

    Enjoy your retreat.


  2. Pingback: Doing unto others « Aphra Behn - danger of eclectic shock

  3. I hope it’s a very productive week for you.

  4. Charlotte, I like your way of getting your characters unfuzzy. (I might borrow your method.)

    Have a phenomenal writing retreat. Can’t wait to hear how it goes! I’m getting so very curious about your novel, I can’t stand it…

  5. The unlikeable/likeable character debate is one I engage in as well. Someone once told me they really disliked the main character of my novel and I was devastated for days, until I realized that this was actually the point. The trickier problem at that point was to then make an unlikeable character sympathetic enough that the reader wanted to see them grow and change.
    Enjoy your conference and I’m sure you will get a lot of writing done!

  6. A reader needs to like the character on SOME level, I think — otherwise, why would you want to read it?

    Have a great and productive time at your writing retreat in Berlin. My fingers are turning green as I type this! 🙂

  7. Berlin, egads! how delightful for a writers retreat! look forward to hearing more and seeing the word count jump (which is inspiring)

  8. I love hearing about your writing process — it’s interesting to find out what it takes to develop a character. Your writing retreat sounds fabulous!

  9. The writing retreat does sound wonderful, Charlotte. I am sure that having time and space to yourself will be more than sufficient for finding answers to the questions of sponginess, niceness, etc.

  10. I think rather than being unlikable or likable, characters must be understandable and interesting. If the writer is without judgment, but feels concern and compassion for her characters, then the reader will be able to make of the characters what they wish, which is what readers should do. Other people in the book, though, THEY can like or dislike each other, and judge and condemn and come to see each other clearly — or not. That, anyway, is my initial reaction to this issue, and I am not sure I’m right. But I think that tolerant amusement for the bad characters is a very attractive narrative stance. (Unless you’re writing something like In Cold Blood, but that’s not something I’d ever write, except come to think of it, didn’t Truman Capote sort of LIKE those guys?) I do think that you, as a writer, must like your characters in some way, despite their flaws — you have to, at some level in order to live with them and write about them. Also, likable is not the same thing as GOOD. Satan, for example, was not good, but he was likable — Milton loved him way more than God, because he was flawed, energetic, and very, very interesting, in his fallen-angel way. That doesn’t mean satan got to win, of course, but he did get the best lines.

    40,000 WORDS! You are awesome, Charlotte. Have a great time in Berlin. xoxo

  11. Wow, 40,000! I am impressed! I need a writer’s retreat too!!

  12. Well done! And I’m pleased to say that I am finally writing on a little project of my own too! It’s not nearly as ambitious as yours but the first 1200 words flowed pretty easily this weekend. The deadline is a bit tight, so the remainder will have to hurry up and flow too, although I suspect I’ve picked the low-hanging fruit and the rest may be harder. I know where we have to end up, but the route to get there is still a bit fuzzy…

  13. People are never bland when you probe them. Even the nice ones can be enraged over their compulsive niceness. Characters are like sculptures: starting with a lump of clay or hunk of marble.

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