It has been my experience that if you don’t love the characters you are writing about, you won’t love the writing.
Now I know that every writer struggles with the physical side of writing every now and then – i.e. actually sitting and writing. This is common knowledge and I have read many interviews with published writers explaining how sometimes they hate sitting in front of the computer and doing what they do best. This is best alleviated by coming up with a pre-writing routine that you go through before actually writing so that you feel like you are prepping yourself and “summoning your muse”, et cetera. Basically, what you are doing is wasting time in an orderly, planned and organized manner before you sit and write. My routine involves a shower, a coffee, reading the newspaper and doing the crossword, blogging and maybe doing an abstract, 30 minute writing exercise. If I don’t do these things and sit and try and work on my latest project, I feel as though I’ve just jumped out of a plane with no parachute.
So, loving your characters. After you’ve finished your routine and prepped yourself and summoned your muse (that sounds dirtier than it should) what great and inspired writing comes down to is loving the characters you have created whose story you have chosen to tell.
It doesn’t matter what they do or even how evil they are. If your character is a mass murderer, love them because they bring conflict to your story (the more conflict the better of course!). It’s fiction after all, so it’s not like you love them for being a mass murderer, but for what they bring to your story. Love the hopeless romantic because even though they may go through many hopeless situations their heart doesn’t completely shatter and you know that this character will prevail no matter how much crap you throw at them. Love the vixen. Love the small town girl in a big town world. Love the father figure. Love the wounded hero. Love the devil.
Ultimately, you need to know and love the characters because it is the characters and their reaction to the events and conflict in the story that makes the story yours but also makes the story interesting and original. “What will this asshole do next”? “What would be the breaking point for this poor lost soul?” “What does this character think they want?”.
At least that’s my experience. If I don’t love the characters I’m writing about, no matter how good or bad they might be, then I lose interest. If you think about it, it’s remarkably similar to stories you read or watch on the screen…if you don’t like those characters you probably won’t like the movie you’re watching or book you’re reading either.
Good luck and happy writing! And remember, conflict is simply the person, place, thought or thing that gets in the way of someone wanting something. It doesn’t always have to be a physical punch up or something huge. It could be a zit on someone’s nose they notice when they’re getting ready for a first date with the object of their affection. Sometimes simple is the way to go, because then you get to focus on how the character – that you know and love – reacts to the zit. Do they squeeze it? Do they cancel the date and go and get drunk? Or, do they say, “F-This! If they don’t like me, zit and all, I don’t care!” and go on the date anyway? Hmmm, there’s a story there somewhere.