How understanding the root chakra will improve your writing

One of the first steps in creating a character is to understand their backstory. Whether we use the details about each character’s past in the actual story or not, we need to have a clear and compassionate understanding of our characters’ histories.

Oftentimes, we have an inkling of our characters – even when writing from real life experience in a memoir – and our tendency is to write and write until we stumble across their desires and the motivations for those desires. In fact, it is likely even more difficult to get to the core of characters in memoir because we’re so very close to it all – so emotionally attached to our version of the story.

Whether we’re writing fiction or memoir – or something in between – we need a way to approach characters’ emotional inner workings, and an effective method to accomplish this is to explore the Root Chakra because this chakra is about our origins. It will take you to your characters’ emotional underpinnings.

What do you know about your characters’ family of origin, and how does it inform her/his desires, motivations, and behaviors?

How understanding the Root Chakra can help your writing

The Writing Through the Body™ process is both generative and corrective. It’s generative in that it can help you build a character or a story from nothing, and it’s corrective in that it can move you forward if you’re stuck. Here’s how.

Oftentimes with writing we’re faced with a chicken-or-egg scenario. Maybe we want to write but we’re coming up blank. Or maybe we’ve started a story but it just isn’t going anywhere.

Generative

To clear that block and generate story, we can simply begin by imagining a character (think simply at first: gender and age – woman, 35 years old).

"Migrant Mother"  by Dorothea Lange

“Migrant Mother”
by Dorothea Lange

Then, give her a Root Chakra (located in the area just in front of the tailbone) problem: survival fears or fear of abandonment. This can take the form of her literally not having enough money to buy food and shelter for herself and her kids. It can be an irrational fear of not being able to provide even if she does have the resources. Or it can be her fear of her husband leaving her, which makes her suspicious and on edge. The fear doesn’t have to be founded on any evidence. It just has to be present.

Next, pick a setting, the writing element I pair with the Root Chakra, because setting plays significantly into the shaping of our identities. (Think of your childhood home.) If we put her in her kitchen (a logical space for someone struggling with survival fears… food, sustenance, or lack thereof) and get her to move around, we’ll bring her to life. What’s she making for dinner? Can she make dinner? What are her kids doing in the background?

Corrective

image credit: lightworkers.org

image credit: lightworkers.org

On the other hand, if we’re already well into a story and we have a character who is already struggling with basic survival needs (sometimes these things just come to us organically), we can consult the chakras and know that she’s struggling with a Root Chakra problem.

The Root Chakra governs our Tribal Power. Generally, we think of this as our family of origin. So when our character is struggling to put food on the table at home (or fearing that she won’t be able to) or fearing she’s going to be left, we can begin to look back into her family constellation and dynamics (her back story) to understand her relationship with money, “having enough,” or “being enough.” We can then begin to know why she has this fear and let that information inform the story. We might even try bringing a family member into the story to see how it helps character development and storyline unfold.

We don’t always have to tell our readers every detail about our characters’ back stories, but we, as the writer, have to know them.

Who’s your character and what’s your setting?