How Being Mindful Can Help You Write Better Characters

You can never stop being a writer.

You can stop writing, but there is a part of your brain that never sleeps, never stops observing, never stops scribing.

This is an unconscious process for many of us, but to write novels that clutch people’s hearts, we must tap into that thought process. Today, I’m going to give you four lenses you can use to observe the world and enrich your writing. So let’s get started!

Being Mindful in Life

The past year and a half has been the most stretching, explorative, painful, and joyous time of my life ever. I graduated college, moved to two different cities, fell in love, became acquainted with the ugliness and beauty of my soul, struggled through injuries and previously unknown levels of stress and responsibility, and committed my life irrevocably to the most wonderful man I have ever known.

I tell you this because throughout this time, there was a part of me recording everything, knowing that someday it would all filter into my writing. Without touching pen to paper, I was becoming a better writer by paying attention to what was happening to me and how I reacted to the feelings that accompanied those events.


What to Focus On

1. Physical Reactions

  • Posture
  • Movement
  • Interruptions in regular patterns (unable to sleep, breathe, etc.)
  • Impairments/Enhancements (e.g. vacancy, head filled with cotton; tastes blooming on the tongue)

Example: Occasionally crying isn’t enough and a full sob has to emerge. During a rough patch, I experienced this and despite being deeply present in the moment, I also noticed these things:

  • Curled up, hiding posture
  • Staccato, tripping gasps
  • Hot-rimmed eyes, like I had used a wood burner for eyeliner
  • Shuddering, trembling
  • Thoughts muffled through a veil of water


2. Emotions

  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Despair
  • Contentedness
  • Love
  • Melancholy
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Hope


3. Coping Mechanisms

  • Music
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Seeking attention
  • Pulling away
  • Throwing self into activities
  • Never being alone

Example: I use music as a salve, motivator, numbing agent, and release. I keep tabs on how I’m using it at any time because it tells me how I’m actually doing inside. In the same way, characters can love one thing but use it in dynamic ways, lending them depth.


4. Thought Processes

  • Negative/positive
  • Scattered/organized
  • Linear/looping

Note that the bullets above are all focused on the interior. While it is always good to focus on your surroundings, becoming more self-aware will equip you to write characters that look, act, and feel like real people.

We know many of these things instinctively, but it is much easier to put words to experiences as you go through them than to wait and hope that when you sit down to write that everything will vividly return to you. Think of it as adding to your writing bank.

So go forth and put some new deposits in! And who knows, you may even come away with the bonus of knowing yourself better.



Abigail, after three scrapped blog posts, signing off!

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