Getting Back into Character

Actors talk about staying in character while they are in a play or movie, and how it helps them stay true to the role. I believe writers have the same dilemma when they are working on a book.

How do you get back into character when you’ve had a long break? While I’m writing, I continue to revisit my character outline and critical, pivotal moments, especially when writing a series. I don’t want the story to deviate from a particular character’s motivations and general personality. It wouldn’t make sense to have a mild-mannered individual begin swearing like a sailor and starting bar fights without reason.

I’ve been away from writing for about six months59821893753__C4C47443-5557-4D4A-B4ED-1059187AE143 after a cross-country move and major orthopedic surgery.  Life was chaotic, and I missed the daily catharsis it provided desperately. My recent move has added some distractions I haven’t had to deal with before. I’m still unpacking boxes and getting my life organized. I’m meeting new friends and have had an increase in social activities. It’s also lovely weather, and I’m spending more time outside walking the trails, swimming, and going to the gym. Plus, my husband is around the house since he retired.

Now that I’m back, I find the voice in my head is muted. I’m re-reading what I’ve written thus far IMG_6529to recapture my creative fire. Each day, I isolate myself after my morning walk and sit down with my laptop to make some headway.  The progress is slow, but I’m hopeful that sometime soon, I will feel like writing for hours.

I’d love to hear from other writers about how they have dealt with a similar situation.  Back to writing ~~ Kate

6 thoughts on “Getting Back into Character”

  1. Word counts are tricky things. I’ve done three urban fantasies in a row all pretty much around the 120k mark. I only had to make a special effort to fit it in that space on the third one, and event that was easy because the last quarter of the book had started to drift and go nowhere fast. Likewise, the space opera I put out a few months back “just happened” at about 120k.
    And then there are the things that come out novella length, or 10k shorts.
    I think that when you’re an indie author you have more freedom to write these things whatever length actually works. Getting hung up on whether it’s too long or short is just a shortcut to frustration.

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  2. Hi Kate… been there, doing that right now, and it’s heavy going.

    I write a lot in 1st person, so I do need to “get in character”. In the last year I’ve had the exhausting experience of publishing two books and spent a lot of time in hospital as the doctors get my partner back from Death’s door to something approximating normal. NOW she says “why don’t you finish *that* project next.”

    *That* project – four separate 1st person narratives interwoven across four (or five, not quite certain yet) books. I started writing book 1 in 2010. Book 3 started in 2014 and I’ve not worked on it properly since 2015. I think it’s fair to say that my mental picture of the books and characters is a bit fuzzy.

    I find it very hard getting back into that mindset of four different characters, and I certainly tend to write blocks of just one character because it’s tricky swapping back and forth even when I’m back in the flow. And when I’m settled back in (I’ve been re-reading the 140k of Book 3 to get it straight in my head) I have to keep track of the character development, because each book means some significant change for ALL of the four POV characters.

    It really is heavy going and it takes time. I fully anticipate Book 3 being a monster to edit from a continuity point of view, and then it needs to line up with Books 1 and 2, which were each written in one go and, so far as I recall, run pretty smoothly.

    For me, there’s a further complication – I’m a pantser. There is no plot outline, except a vague concept in my head, which has grown vaguer since I last worked on the project. Perversely, I’m currently writing a retrospective plot outline so that I have a summary of what I’ve already done. If nothing else, it’s helping me get back into the story, world and characters, summarising each chapter as I read.

    All being well, I will get to write 4 all in one go. And then 5, if there is a 5. However, that’s probably two years work, so plenty of time for Real Life to intrude on my plans. Again.

    Best of luck getting back into your own characters!

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    1. I hear you loud and clear, Mark. I didn’t know it would be this difficult. I’m a pantser as well with minimal plot points that can change whenever my muse decides. Good luck with your book. You have much more written than I do. My book may end up being a novella at this rate.


      1. Size isn’t everything…

        Seriously, size is my enemy on this. In my head, I was writing a single book, about 120k and definitely not more than 125k. I knew I was in trouble when it started approaching 200k and realised that the best I was going to get away with was bringing the story to a natural crisis point and call it Book 1. The four books I’ve published have all been about the 120k size and that’s a nice sort of size when it comes to editing and can fit into a 12 month write/edit/publish cycle (if Real Life plays nicely). This *big project* is daunting with 4 (or 5) times 250k to get straight.

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