I've found in the past in short stories that characters sometimes go off on a tangent I would never have planned which has often really helped plot development!
I'm now writing a novel and was having a real problem with the relationship between two of the main characters, who I'd decided at the beginning would fall in love with each other and they're just refusing to do that. But just yesterday i suddenly realised that they didn't need to fall in love with each other and that maybe I should let them decide who they want to fall in love with.
How much do you control your characters and how much do they have a life of their own?
Characters grow as you get to know them. You start with an idea of the plot and who does what and where and when, and then your creations take on their own lives, and poke you in the ribs and say, 'I just wouldn't do that'.
You don't know the whole person when you start out: if you're doing the job right, they grow in depth and mannerisms and speech patterns, so that the character becomes rounded and whole. You never know anyone when you first meet them in life, after all.
The minute they stop being stick figures plonked down in a scene, they've changed. You're just there to learn from them!
Yes, they definitely do start poking you in the ribs!
I pretty much know every move my characters are going to make, what needs to be covered in conversation, etc.
But when I was writing Immune From Prosecution, I wrote:
“Really, what would you do? Would you just go in hiding if someone was after the woman you loved? Would you stay put, or would you be out there hunting them down?”
I stopped, "...the woman you loved?" Since when are they in love? I know I had never written them being in love before. I left it because it fit, they have been together for over three years. Plus there were only five pages left to the book, if they were going to be in love, now was as good a time as any.
Great to have characters falling in love without you having to force them! The total opposite to the situation of my characters!
My characters absolutely have a life of their own! During the time I was writing the novel I'm working on edits for now, they went all over the place without my permission! I've never been a start-at-the-beginning kind of writer. I'll get specific scenes in my head, get those down on paper, then connect them with other scenes related to it. Eventually it all ties together, but in the process I find my characters completely absconding with the plot line, and me standing alone going, "But...but...the story arc is that way, guys!"
Inevitably they win, with me trudging along behind, just trying to keep up. And might I say at this juncture - it is so very nice to be telling this to other writers! Yes, I understand at some base level that I'm essentially arguing with myself, since I create(d) the characters, but it's so hard to get non-writers to get the fact that the characters really do come to life, and revel in their ability to surprise you!
I also like what Lorraine said - that as the characters develop, you get to know them better. That's a perfect way to put it! What continually amazes me is their ability to develop in ways you would have never suspected. There have been many times when I've thought, "Who's writing this here, guys - you or me?" ;o)
Yes, it's just like that! I like your phrase 'all over the place without my permission!"
I'm so glad this subject came up. If we weren't writers, people might think we're crazy. I have conversations with my characters all the time, sometimes in my head and occasionally aloud. I also disagree with them when they don't do what I want them to, but usually let them have their way. I've found it makes for better stories, actually.
I have to remind myself that they are not real people. If I ever try to email them or pick up the phone to call them, I'll know it's gone too far. So far, that hasn't happened. I do find myself wondering how they'd react to a particular situation in real life. When I'm in the middle of a book, I feel a bit strange when I'm living inside the book with the characters more than on the "outside" with my partner and others. I used to think this was pretty bizarre until I began writing fiction. I only discuss it with other writers, though. Not quite sure how other folks will see it.
Hi Lissa, that reminds me of what I did when I was writing my novel for NaNoWriMo, I wrote down conversations I was having with the characters to keep the word count up and as notes for later when I'd be writing the proper version (which I'm still doing)
I began a ten minute play with four different artists in an art colony. Turned out only two of them had anything to say, so the two who were mute were cut.
I really liked the finished production because the male is an aging actor and the woman is a wanna-be poet. They truly hate each other-or do they?