I have a character that aims to misbehave.
As I thought about this blog post, this morning, I realized how crazy it sounds. The characters that I write are figments of my own imagination. Therefore, their behavior is dictated by me, right?
That’s what I used to think, when I started the first novel, but I could not have been more wrong.
When a character becomes fully formed, I mean real enough that you can see them and smell them and hear their voice and really, truly understand their motivations, they don’t like to be pushed around. I’ll admit it. Sometimes, as is human nature, I try to take the easy way out. I have been known to try to get a character from point A to point C, without a pit stop at B.
I was surprised the first time that a character put on their brakes and said, “Not on my watch, Lady.” That’s right. A fictional character held my fingers hostage and made me type something that I had not planned on typing. There are a lot of swords and daggers in my novels, and I’m pretty sure that I have been held with a blade at my throat a time or two, especially in the last few weeks.
Have I lost you, yet?
O.K., let me clarify. When I write, I use a rough outline. Very rough. I know where the novel starts, and where it ends, and I know a few key events that will occur along the way. As I write, sometimes my brain creates events that I didn’t foresee, and then I have to figure out how my characters would respond to those events.
That has become one of my favorite parts. I’ve been known to have an argument, out loud, between two characters as I drive down the road, trying to decide how they would deal with a situation. My kids think I’ve completely lost my mind, but it works. It isn’t often that my characters surprise me, because I have gotten to know them so well.
But sometimes, I don’t want them to follow their own nature. Sometimes, I ignore the events that should take place, because they are hard to swallow, or difficult to write, or they make me sad. I love my characters, and I don’t want to see them suffer.
And that is where I am, right now. A character that I love possessed my body (alright, that’s being a bit dramatic, but you catch my drift), and wrote a chapter that changes the whole ball game. It alters the course of everything that I write in the series from here on out, and it is hard. But it isn’t wrong. Honestly, it was a stunning revelation of truth, but…
It isn’t the easy way out.
So I am starting at a new square one. Two hundred thousand words written in the series, and the book has taken a turn that feels like a second starting place. It is overwhelming, but also a little awe-inspiring. It makes me grateful for the muse that keeps the story coming, makes me see the characters in new light, and makes me think about all the new possibilities. I have to step back, getting to know all of my characters all over again, in light of these new events. I have to rethink what’s been thunk.
And I have to write.
But that has been the coolest part about the writing process, thus far. I love that my characters have come to life. I love that they are real enough in my mind that they act accordingly, even if I try to force them to act against their nature. I love that they can make me laugh, and make me cry. I love them like I love my kids… and misbehavior is part of the growing up process, right? So, I’ll take this character’s act of rebellion and learn from it. The other characters will learn from it, and be changed by it, and the books will become stronger for it.
I will become stronger for it, even as that blade rests on my jugular.
(image courtesy of fyeahwriterleopard.tumblr.com)