How to hurt a character without hurting yourself
Honestly, I have no idea how to do this.
It hurts if you are involved with your characters, and since I also have years of training and performance as an actress, I get inside them quite easily.
You have to learn how to separate
I am not so good at that, so at times I have to walk away.
Was it Stephen King who said “Writing is the only career where you get to be God and the devil at the same time?” I think it was so I attribute it to him. If it wasn’t please let me know.
When I was about 30 I was studying acting with Larry Moss and I walked to the parking lot one night with an actress I had just met named Brenda Strong. We were just casually chatting as we walked, the area was a bit dicey at times so no one walked alone to their cars.
I am going to paraphrase what she said to me. This beautiful, strong, tall, elegant woman said she had just found out she was pregnant and was sorry she was going to stop going to class. She said that she didn’t want her child to be exposed to the emotions demanded in acting and that her life was emotional enough.
When you act your emotions play on you physically, mentally and emotionally as if they were real.
Or you aren’t a good actress. She was so protective of her child and it made a strong impression on me. Years later I would pray every day of my pregnancies to protect my children.
Brenda became a yoga teacher and eventually went back to acting full time (first as the voiceover on Desperate Housewives). I carried that idea with me as I knew then as I do now that the mind body connection is powerful. We can heal and we can hurt with that power.
I have found that I need to take breaks when writing trauma (real or imagined), and I need to do a bit of self care if I get close and feel sadness that is not my own.
This may be a little bit out there for some of you. But for me it is important to remember that emotion is read as emotion in my body whether real or imagined. So I take breaks. I walk, I play with my dog, I cook, I work out…I do whatever it takes to reset my own emotional life so I can move forward with both my book and my day.
What do you do for self care?
Do you find yourself emotionally wrapped up in your characters?
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