When I was writing my capstone project, Seedling (seriously, check it out on the page), I was much too eager to write in all of my problematic relationships and using my main character as the funnel for some personal vendettas.
No, really, I melted the face off one character who was loosely based off an ex-friend of mine (think of my post, A Creative Shut Up).
But even before then, my character was too catty. She came off on the offensive right away with each interaction, to the point that my mentor had to sit me down and explain something every writer should know: You need your writers to like your character, not hate them or find them disagreeable. Give us a reason to hate the characters they hate or your story will be DOA.
Oh. Yeah, she had a point. My character gave cheeky comments before given the reason to act that way, so naturally she came off as hateful and bullying, the exact opposite of what I was picturing in my head. And probably feeling in my heart.
Though some would say “no, girl, you be you,” I was being too emotional of a person than a proper writer. It was poisoning the character and infecting the story. I had a lot of revisions on that story, but even with the finished product, I cringe at how my personal vengeances costed my character, Sabella, and her story.
But who doesn’t want to take their bully/ex/antagonistic person from real life and do all sorts of crazy messes to them in a fictional story?
But we can’t let it cost the main point: to have readers that actually like our protagonist and the path they’re walking.
So take a breath with me. In…hold for four…out for seven. Repeat. NOW write the character, make them terrible, and then feed them to a dragon. Or whatever your genre calls for.
Now this isn’t to say that you can’t still use real life inspiration, but don’t let it take over your entire mindset while at the notebook paper and pen or computer and keyboard. If it does the driving, your story will crash rather than cruise along into a full-fledged title.
Emotional writing can be great for passionate scenes, but be careful with your setup. The building of the story’s foundation needs focus and precision, proper methods for the story to tower strong on top of it. I advise any very tumultuous emotions to go into poetry. The beauty of poetry is that it’s up for debate where the rules and boundaries are; I think they’re painted in watercolor, so have at it with your chest-burning, angry writing within a sonnet or free verse!