I am writing historical fiction novel.

Some parts are very sad.

I am identifying with my characters to develop and write about them.

How to move past the sadness and write about ill-fated characters.

Remember, you cannot have rainbows without rain.

  • 11
    "you cannot have rainbows without rain" This is a strange saying because I love rain, so to me it means "you cannot have good without good".
    – Clonkex
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:05
  • @Clonkex - Unless you get wet in ways beyond your imagination, like the mortal you are!
    – Battle
    Mar 12, 2020 at 13:24
  • 3
    After Dickens killed off Little Nell, he was, reportedly, prostrated for a week. If you don't feel anything when you are writing, how can you expect your readers to? Mar 12, 2020 at 18:27

6 Answers 6



As writers, we often find ourselves in the middle of someone else's pain, suffering or turmoil. It comes with the territory. But in any area of life — including writing — we never produce our best work when we're down in the depths of grief or despair.

As a professional, you have to remain upbeat and at your best. But, as you know, detachment isn't an option because of the necessity to become mentally involved with the author, the character and the audience. We have to BE all of them at on-demand.

So here is what I do:

One of the best, quickest ways to rise back up to a higher emotion like "cheerfulness" is to take a break and take a walk. Don't think about the upsetting situation but rather just look around at whatever is there. A squirrel, a car, a tree, the sky, a cloud, the grass, the snow... whatever is there.

You will feel better within minutes whether 15 or 30. However long it takes, come back to the keyboard once you're back to your normal self. Take more frequent walks during the really rough patches.

Let me know how this works out for you, Marium.

  • 5
    I think this is really great, practical advice and I've upvoted your answer. But I wanted to make a comment on this sentence: we never produce our best work when we're down in the depths of grief or despair - perhaps that's true sometimes, but not every time. I know, personally, that some of my best creativity has come right in the middle of experiencing intense negative emotions. Yes, you need a practical method to get yourself to move beyond the "depths," but sometimes it's the depths themselves that bring out the best, and I don't think that potential should be ignored.
    – dwizum
    Mar 12, 2020 at 13:22
  • dwizum I totally agree
    – Tasch
    Mar 12, 2020 at 14:20
  • Hello dwizum, thank you for your response and feedback. I wondered if I was going to hear something about that line. In fact, do agree with you on that point. I only focused on the remedy for handling the times when we need to come out of a funk. But again, you are right.—Robert
    – BookWriter
    Mar 12, 2020 at 20:16

If you know that some terrible things are going to happen to your characters from the get-go, you can prevent yourself from getting too attached to them so you can write whatever you need to and not really care.

But if it's too late for that and/or you don't want to be that distant from your characters, I would say lean into it. Take the sadness you feel and translate it to the page, taking full advantage of your response. You'll probably write better. Then just have something more fun to write about after (it doesn't even have to be writing - just plan something lighthearted and enjoyable to do after you work on a scene that will lift your spirits).

Remember that it's in the past, and in the pages of a book (or on a screen). Plus, many horrific things have happened in history - but many good things have occurred as well. It would do well to remember both sides.

Good luck!


I have felt that before. I spent ages writing about a character, that just died. My advice is to let the tears fall. I know you must think yourself as lame, but I found it to be the best way to get over it. What I also did was create another I would love. Just use it for the purposes of having to love some one fictional character. I was totally in the same situation. I hope this helped you.


I think you need to accept it. I have went through the same when one of my characters died, technically I killed her. But cry for a while, then think about how you want to explore what you are going to write. It might help


What I did in your situation, is let myself be sad. I found I got over it a lot quicker, if you just let yourself cry, be sad, and then you feel better. I hope this short answer helped you (bit of a tight schedule today).

  • 2
    I also found that this technique can be used a lot in regular life.
    – Luna
    Mar 14, 2020 at 4:47

Learn how to move past sadness and grief—it will help you in all areas of life.

Devastating things happen to everyone (if they live long enough). Nearly everyone is deeply affected by these things, but some people can acknowledge it, accept it and soon resume being happy and productive. Others detach and move on, which is less healthy. Then there are many who are consumed by it.

Just because fiction is fiction doesn't mean we can't be sad or grieve as if the characters are real people, our friends. Actually, reading fiction can help us prepare for what life throws at us—and writing maybe even moreso!

There are many ways to learn to respond in more healthy ways to sadness and grief. These include our upbringing, friends, self-help books, counselors, and good ol' learning-the-hard-way.

What is a healthy response for one person is not the same for another person. Some people need to "get it out of their system", some need to pay their respects over a long period, some need to find something new to fill the hole. But remember that grieving is wired into us humans, and sometimes it can't be sped up.

Personally I feel that the most powerful thing is one's philosophical outlook. In my case, "what do I prefer, a life of misery or a life of joy?" This guides me to pay less attention to the pain and more attention to achieving, enjoying, and learning.

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