Characters; without them where would writers be? In a sad state of affairs that’s where, but at the same time there are days I would love to commit fictional homicide. Why you may ask? If you ask that question with a straight face, I have doubts that you’re a writer. If you’re a writer and have never had the urge to murder these lovely tulpas that spring from your imagination some admiration is in order. Not to mention you need to find out why, bottle it, and sell it on the open market. You could make a bloody fortune.
I once had a friend of mine ask me how a character could take over a story and do what it wanted when I’m the writer. Sadly, I couldn’t get her to understand no matter how hard I tried. She stated that the very idea that the writer cannot control the character was just stupid. That was when I knew that she’d never understand where I was coming from and chose not to discuss the creative process with her any longer. That really saddened me, but some people will never understand because there are writers and then there are non-writers.
Yes, I create the characters, but that doesn’t mean the characters will cooperate. I decided a long time ago that the writer/character relationship is somewhat like the creator/human relationship. At this point, I’m sure I heard a number of eyebrows shooting skyward at that comparison. If you take a moment to think, it is an apt comparison. The creator (writer) decides on a world fleshing it out and in the process creates the inhabitants of said world (characters). We have a plan, but during the process, we realize that for anyone to give a damn about these characters they have to evolve into their own people and that is where the problems begin. We want them to have freewill, but at the same time, we want enough control so they’ll follow where we lead.
Here’s an example. I’m working on the first book of a series that involves a group of strangers drawn together by one man to form a paranormal investigative team. The first book is always the most difficult simply because you have to introduce the characters and establish their personalities without boring the reader. The team consists of three men: a gay psychologist, an ex-military security specialist and trained Babaolorisha, and a computer engineer/tech geek. Then there are two women: an opinionated Irish psychic and a shy Hispanic/Scottish girl with double degrees in History and Business Management. I thought I had these characters figured out. I even wrote detailed character profiles, which I rarely do, but felt was necessary considering this is a lengthy series.
Last night my muses decided to wake up around 8 pm and started to cooperate. That was until the stubborn Irish wench and the lil’ shy girl decided they would share a meaningful gaze–WTH? I stopped and reread the paragraph numerous times, scratched my head, and thought again-WTH? It appears that there may be some lesbian love blooming there. Now I didn’t see that one coming–Not that I’m complaining, but when did that happen?
One of the lessons I’ve still not learned (it’s that stubborn Irish blood I think) is that the characters once given freewill will eventually pull a quick one every time. I try not to be surprised, but I always am. I had not planned for these two women to have that type of connection, but they chose to go there. Whether it evolves into a full-blown love connection, I can’t say. If it does then this is the journey the characters need to experience.
Therefore, writers out there, I pose one question. Have any of your characters taken on a life of their own and bitch smacked your plans for them out in left field?