Writing Advice

Help for Authors and Writers

The Craft of Writing: Characters Adrift.

It’s easy to write a character on a mission. Determined, resolutie, characters on a mission have a goal and an agenda. But how do you write a character adrift?

Writing a character adrift in life, not sure what to do, is a lot harder than writing a character with a purpose and mission. You have to know the character better. In what way is she lost in life? Other than being lost in life, what kind of personality does she have? What’s your goal in writing her? What are her goals?

Eunice and I are working on a pornographic short story with a protagonist who’s lost in life. This is how we wrote her:

“What are you thinking about now?” Marahala said.

“Will you share the Blessing of Affinity with me? It’s okay if you say no, but I would like…I would like to open myself up to you, if you’re willing.”

Surprise registered in his eyes again. He tilted his head in thought for a moment, then nodded. “Sure.”

The drone returned bearing two small, dark blue vials on its tray. Chanae took one and offered the other to Marahala. They drank.

The Blessing crept up gently on her. Her skin tingled where she lay against Marahala. She relaxed, sinking into a calm peace as though lowering herself into a warm bath. She watched the flowers glow on the vines overhead. “This has been a strange Nameday for me.” The words flowed easily from her, spilling into the space between them. “I feel…I don’t know. Lost, I guess.”

He ran his fingers over her shoulder. “Lost how?”

“For a long time, I think I defined myself by what I wasn’t. My family group expected me to worship the Quickener. I wanted to make my own way, so I worshipped the Fiery One instead. Did I ever tell you I was a Potential of the Fiery One the same year my sister became Sacrifice to the Quickener?”

“I knew you wanted to be Sacrifice to the Fiery One, but I don’t think I knew that.”

Chanae laughed. “I thought it would be easy. My family group kept telling me I’d be Fountain one day, so I guess…I don’t know, I thought becoming Sacrifice would be simple. I just assumed that the Fiery One would pick me. By the gods and the people who made them, I was such a child.”

Marahala ran his hands down her arms, sinking with her into the shared space of the Blessing’s trance. “And now?”

She tilted her head to look up at him. His eyes shone with kindness. She reached up to caress his face, struck again by how familiar and how alien it was. “Now here I am, sixty-two years old. Soon I won’t be a young adult any more, but somehow I still feel exactly the same as I did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. I don’t know which god I want to worship. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I didn’t want to be alone today, but when I thought about who I wanted to spend time with, I realized that I’ve let all my close connections fade away. Thank you for spending time with me.”

“Thank you for inviting me.” He wrapped his arms around her. “You’re not even close to a hundred yet! It’s normal not to have settled down. I know people who are a hundred and thirty and still finding themselves.”

“That’s not how the Everessa family does things.”

“Maybe that’s how Chanae does things.”

An important part of writing a character lost in life is writing how other characters respond to them. Things line:

  • Does being adrift alienate your character?
  • Do others respond with sympathy or hostility?
  • What impact does being lost in life have on your character?
  • What does she do about it? What actions does she take?
will all significantly impact how you write about the character. At the end of the day, even a character without a defined goal and challenges to overcome will have motivations, desires, things he moves toward and things he moves away from. When the plot of your story doesn't reveal the character’s motivations, you need to look inward, into the character, to find them.