Pia you're such a knowledgable writer, do you ever feel guilty for not loving one of your ocs enough? I'm writing a story and I'm so, so in tune with my protag. (J) but his love interest(E)? I'm struggling to empathize with E as much as J.. but I still love E and don't want to scrap him. It's just so very unfair to E. What should I do?
Hiya, fellow writer, I definitely sometimes feel guilty for not understanding my OCs enough?
But okay, love is complicated/tricky. It’s sort of a myth that you have to love your OCs. You don’t. It’s even kind of a myth that love is the thing that will bring them to life (but it helps, I think - but so does any emotion).
If you don’t want to scrap the character, there’s a few things you can consider:
- Are you still able to write E? If so, this is a good thing.
It’s okay for you to get to know and love a character during the course
of a story. I didn’t love Gulvi when I started writing her. Tbh, she
kind of pissed me off and she had a personality I knew I wouldn’t enjoy
in real life. So she annoyed me (sorry Gulvi). At the same time I liked
the character type and I knew she was important to the story and
to Ash, and so I liked her…through Ash in a way? Like I got to see her
through Ash’s eyes, and that helped.
So it’s okay for you to learn to love E through J’s eyes. Chances are if you’re struggling to ‘get’ one of your characters, readers may struggle too - that’s actually not a bad thing at all. So you can go on a journey of discovery together. What does J like about them? What are they appreciating/not appreciating? That kind of journey of discovery can be one for you too. Even if they’re already in an established relationship. (I actually think the journey of character discovery is really fun within a story, but intimidating too. It’s taking me forever to ‘get’ Mosk, in The Ice Plague, and that’s intimidating and makes me feel like…what if he’s the wrong character? What if I don’t understand him? -> but realistically, the readers will be skeptical too, so we are literally in this together.)
- It really depends on how much it’s interfering with you writing. If it’s stopping any of the words flowing, then you can try some characterisation exercises (there are tons of like… suggestions for character development via google, and they can help). If it’s not interfering as much with writing and you’re more just worried, it’s okay to let the writing process itself help you along. If it’s not interfering with your writing and you’re not even worried about it interfering, and it’s more guilt for not loving him (yet or ever), that’s okay, you don’t have to.
- Authors write entire stories that might feature a main character they never gel with. When you come from fandom, you generally write because you *looooove* the characters you’re writing, so this idea forms that you write characters because you love them. (Even in fanfic it’s not always true, but it’s more likely to be true). But with original characters, it’s different. You didn’t get to watch seasons of those characters and fall in love with them first. You didn’t get to read a series, or watch a movie. You have to do that initial hard work for yourself. I’m sure there are characters in movies and books and shows that you didn’t love at first, and then came to. And that happened through the narrative process.
The same thing happens for authors of original content all the time. So in the beginning if you don’t love a character, it’s like, it’s totally okay? You will teach yourself, and you will teach your readers, too. :) You also have a lot of really cool things going for you here - you do like the character, you don’t want to scrap him, and hey, some stories do focus more on one character over the other, even in a romance. It’s okay to love one of your characters more, or to get that one more because you personally resonate with them.
This stuff is hard, but you don’t need to feel guilty about it. It’s more like…a journey of discovery. You can’t expect yourself to love someone off the bat, if you’ve never had a narrative journey with them and they’re not the kind of character you’re naturally in tune with. But you can go discover them, learn to love them, learn how to see them through another character’s eyes, or find other emotions to associate with them.
Also empathy can be evoked a lot more easily if you’re seeing a character through a character who does empathise with them. And describe it from their perspective instead of yours. I also think… a random question: is the audience meant to empathise with them at this point? Sometimes…how you feel can reflect how an audience is meant to be feeling. That’s a really weird point to bring up and it may not be remotely relevant but…it’s actually okay to allow yourself to not love or empathise with a character, especially if it’s story appropriate in the moment? (And if it’s not, I hope some of the other suggestions help). <3
Good luck in the word mines, anon!