Is daily life tougher now than for any past generation? Certainly past generations scoff at this, and say we have it easy, and in turn we think youngsters lead charmed lives. The truth is that every generation deals with challenges, hardships and joys, using the resources available at that time. And it is a rich source of material for the writer.
Make a list of the issues that currently challenge you, and complicate your life, and the lives of your family and community. My list looks like this:
- harassment (racial, sexual, whatever)
- online dating
- scams and identity theft
- renting versus buying a home
- employment struggles (retrenchment, age, retraining, multiple careers, and more)
I imagine your list has some of these points, plus others too. So give these challenges to your characters. Challenge your character with an issue familiar to you – because you know the pain, the frustration, the difficulty and the eventual joy, your character will be more authentic, and more familiar to your reader. As you write, remember how each situation feels, focus on the physical feeling, not the unemotional description of the feeling. Did losing your job make you feel like throwing up? Did a bout of depression leave you feeling paralysed, unable to even crawl out of bed for days? What was your physical reaction to being scammed, or to discovering your home had been burgled? How did it feel, how did you react, when you saw cruel racial abuse in your community?
Write a scene in which your character experiences shame, another when she or he is confronted with an unwelcome challenge. Take examples from your list, and write your character’s responses. Focus on the emotional and psychological experience, rather than the actual solution to the problem.
Maybe you can weave these scenes into a story, maybe not. But by practising focussing attention on the gut reaction, rather than on the solution, you will create rich credible characters with whom your reader can empathise.