Do your characters have a will of their own?

Imagine the following situation. Today you have the day off and you have plans to go on a trip. It’s 2 o’ clock and any minute now your kid will come back from school. You have been packing, just the essentials, and then the phone rings. With a shirt draped over your shoulder, you pick up the phone. It’s your wife and she tells you that she wants a divorce. In the blink of an eye, your whole life changes. Your wife will leave you and you will see your kid only on weekends. What would you do?

For starters, let’s define free will as: the apparent human ability to make choices that are not externally determined[1].

I will give the character above a name and a personality. His name is Jim. He is easy-going, not very brave, he loves his wife and kid and he is shy. Pretty much your average Joe. Based on his personality, what would he have done in the situation above? My story needs a brave hero who will eventually win back his wife. Can I force him to do that? I don’t want another character, I love Jim just the way he is. Through the course of the story he will change –it’s inevitable– but he will still be the same person: Jim. What do I do if my story needs a brave man and not … you know, Jim?

This is a very common problem for a writer. Plot VS. Character. We will talk about this conflict in another post.

Let’s put Jim through a test. We are halfway in the book and a month after Jim’s divorce: He sits in a bar, a bit drunk. His feelings for his wife are still strong and he’s lost his kid too. A woman approaches. They talk and, eventually, she suggests going to her place.

Is there a story inside you?

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

If you are a writer, consider this for a moment. Why am I a writer? What do I want to achieve? Fame? Money? Do I want to entertain people or to just earn enough money for the rent? All these reasons are acceptable but they are not the real ones .

I will speak only for myself. Simply put, it is the urge to tell a story. When a thousand thoughts consume me and I’m bursting at the seams with ideas, I sit in front of my computer and write. I want to express my thoughts, my feelings and my troubles through a story. I want to see through the eyes of another person, one who lives in another world, who does different things but, at the end of the day, we are still one and the same . We share the same emotions, the same troubles and we see the world from the same perspective. Eventually, I get attached to this character and my only reason to write is to tell his (or her)  story.

It doesn’t matter if you are a writer or a reader. The question is the same: why do you write or read a story? Maybe there is something untold deep inside you that you need to explore. Possibly, there is a story that needs to be told, by you or someone else.

10 simple but very effective steps to become a better writer (Part 1).

So, you want to be a better writer. My friend, you are in the right place. I will publish soon the second part of this guide but until then be patient and follow the next steps. Let’s get started.

1: Empower your imagination.

Imagination is the most valuable tool in your toolbox. Contrary to what people may say, you are not born with a certain capacity for imagination. It needs work to flourish. This was my teacher’s first and most valuable advice. If you want to be creative, you have to empower your imagination. There are many ways to do that.

Nothing is normal for a writer. You will write about different worlds, complex characters, unexpected situations etc. A door mustn’t be just a door for you. No one wants to read about a door. The things that are happening behind that door are important. If you open it, what would you see? Another world? An intruder? Something even more interesting? This is up to you. There are no limits to your imagination.

Think of a tree. Is it just a tree? Maybe it is a home, or a portal to a different dimension. Maybe this sounds silly to you, but when your character is in need of a solution, this method will be your savior. So, create many short stories based on that method. You will need those stories to pop up to your mind when you’re writing your book. This way, you can be original and keep your story interesting. Your goal for now must be to do this exercise for the next two weeks. Breathe life into the things around you, see the world through the eyes of your imagination. Oh, and you don’t need drugs to do that! Isn’t that cool?.

2: Be patient, you are not ready yet. Keep writing your ideas.

Try to be patient. You have a lot to do before you start writing your book. I know, I know all you want to do is grab a piece of paper and go bananas. We will get there soon. But first you need a good story. Write down every idea that springs to mind. Don’t forget. Everything that goes through your mind is a possible candidate for your next story. Work, work, work.

Example: A man is bitten by a spider and gains superpowers. This is all you need to write Spiderman


Bonus tip: If you want to be good at writing you need motivation. Well, if you want to be good at anything you need motivation. You must exercise every day to harness your writing skills and that is not an easy thing to do. So I want to motivate you with the following image.


Do you feel motivated? It says motivation in big blue letters. Good, isn’t it? No? Maybe we need bigger letters.


What about now? BIIIG letters! And they’re blue. What do you think? It says motivation. No? Well, at least I tried. Oh, wait.  I know, I know. Wait a minute…. Where did I put it? Where did I-  Aha, found it!


What about now? Keep writing or you will be eaten by a bloodthirsty dinosaur. We’re talking true inspiration here. But let’s get back to business.