Your own limitations may influence your writing

I’m listening to a workshop given by Christopher Vogler and Michael Hague, and an interesting thing Christopher Vogler mentioned is that often, a writer’s own psychological and social limitations will come out in their writing.

If a writer personally doesn’t like women, he can’t write believable women characters in his fiction. If a writer doesn’t have good conversation skills, their dialogue ends up being stilted and unnatural. If a writer tends to be a people-pleaser and only wants everyone to get along, their characters will have very little interpersonal conflict.

This is a difficult thing for writers to work on, because there’s often deep-seated psychological or social roots that form the basis of their own limitations, and let’s face it, no one wants to dredge up their own personal pain.

However, if you’ve begun to see trends of what your critique partners or contest judges or editors say about your writing, take a long look at yourself. Is there perhaps something within yourself that is limiting your writing in some way?

I am a Christian, so what I do is pray and ask God to speak to me about things I need to work on, and for strength to help me face things that are painful. Right now, I’m dealing with forgiveness issues and noticing my characters are a bit bitter and unlikable. Go figure. LOL

Seriously, this might be something significant for you. Look at your own limitations and see if they might be impacting your writing.


  1. Wow - your second example hit the nail on the head. I've been realizing lately that my dialogue needs work - my characters sound alike and use many unnecessary words. And I'm very shy in groups and tend to be a listener instead of a talker. Plus, guy/girl conversations have an extra handicap since (being homeschooled and going to a tiny church) the only guy I really talked to growing up was my brother.

    Hmm, now that I know my weakness - what to do about it?

  2. Ouch, Camy! I don't like conflict in my personal life. I want to identify a problem, solve it and move on. So writing conflict into a fictional relationship and maintaining it through the storyline is tough for me. Of course, if I don't do it, the conflict doesn't build any tension in the plot (a wise woman pointed that out to me).

    Thanks for helping me identify a personal limitation that perpetuates into my writing.

  3. Okay, now you're scaring me. Maybe Margie Lawson needs to be teaching on this.....

  4. I'm a people pleaser and hate the thoughts of one of my characters not getting along with her mother. I'm really hesitant about "going there" but it needs to be done for the good of the novel. Layers, shmayers....LOL

  5. What to do about it:

    Now that you're aware of the problem, that's half the battle!

    What I would suggest you do is make a conscious effort to write fearlessly. Make your characters do things you don't want them to do. Cringe as you write, but keep writing.

    It'll feel uncomfortable, and it'll feel awkward, but that's okay! Smoothing things out can come later with your crit partners and revisions.

    If you have a problem that you can read books to help with, then do it! I had a problem with emotions and deep point of view, so I read tons of articles and books on it to help me out.



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