When in Doubt, Write

I’ve been working on a science fiction novel for a few months now, and unlike previous projects that I’ve scrapped, I’m doing this one properly. This basically means a lot of planning before I actually start writing, from world-building to character creation to research. A couple months ago I decided to incorporate a mercenary group that I’d invented for a previously-scrapped project, and so I’ve been modifying their characters to fit them into this new novel.

Whereupon I hit a snag. The mercenaries’ commander is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever created, which is why I resurrected him. But in developing this character, I’ve started basing him more strongly on someone important in my life, and so certain aspects of him have changed. One thing that I’ve been debating is probably the most basic: his appearance and his age. My original character was mid-forties, roguishly handsome and somewhat based on Nathan Fillion; the modified character, partly due to the real-life person he’s inspired by, is mid-fifties and a bit more hardened, akin to Bruce Willis. Unfortunately, these two bases are different enough that they would subtly affect other aspects of his character, and I found myself unable to decide which was the right fit.

I’ve been grappling with this for about a month. So finally yesterday, unable to decide, I started writing Chapter Two of my novel, where the mercenary group is introduced.

After a page and a half, my mercenary commander utters his first dialogue of the novel. As soon as I reached that point, I could see the scene perfectly in my mind, and I knew exactly who my character was.

My lesson from this, and to you, my fellow writers, is that when you’ve hit a wall in your novel, just start writing. It might not be easy at first, but the act of creating your story word by word will eventually bring you to the answers you need. So when in doubt, just write.


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