Saturday, January 26, 2008

Don't Fight Your Characters

I was over on another blog last night and left a comment to the post about letting your characters have their head. In the comment trail, I said:

You've got to listen to (your characters). You gave them life but they're the ones who have to live it.

Then I stepped back and looked at it. That was pretty good, if you ask me!

Once you create a character, you have given them a form of life. It may all be in your imagination, but think of it as another realm. They live, breathe, and communicate in that other realm. They're just as real in their realm as we are in ours. When you give your character attributes and then add plot and dialogue, you'll find that they stray away from your original intent for them. Just like children, as they get older and start to develop their own personalities, they'll diverge from their parents' original dreams for them and become something else. Sometimes the divergence will be wide, sometimes only slight -- but the divergence is there.

When we try to force our characters to become what they aren't, it's a lot like trying to force our children. They resent it, the relationship is strained, and the story doesn't flow. However, if we work with the character and come to a compromise, we'll be much happier. And, if you're brave enough to let the character take total control, you may find that the story becomes much better than you had originally outlined.

Don't be too rigid with your characters. Allow them room to grow. Don't force them into your mold. Let them go and see what happens. It's an exciting process.

7 comments: said...

hi tristi,
this is awesome what you said here. thank you for sharing your take on this. i have been stuck on writing my chapter six for a month ish now. i was on a great roll up until then. the characters are still doing some things, but not as much. i guess i haven't been in the mood. i would like to see where this story goes because i want to see who the killer really is in the story.

thanks for sharing this post.
happy Sabbath girl,
kathleen :)

Luisa Perkins said...

Very true, very true!

* wallflower * said...

I know it's safe to say this among other writers -- what you say is so true! (Non-writers seemed to get a little creeped out when I used to say things like "I hear my characters' voices" or "I watch what my characters are doing, just like a movie in my head.")

Unfortunately, it's been a long, dry spell for me, and I haven't had any movies in my head for a long time. I just remember the agony of coming to a dead halt in the story and my characters refusing to conform to MY wishes. :^) Sometimes I would sit each character down for an interview and that would open the sluice gate.

~paulette said...

i copied a quote from wendy's blog once that i think you'd like:

Listen to the demands of [your] characters, who, as they begin to come to life, may insist upon a different fate than the givens seem to require.
Oakley Hall

Mindi said...

I lurk a bit but have never posted, I don't write, so I really don't have anything to offer. I had to giggle when I read your post today - you sound like an episode of the Twilight Zone, have you ever seen that one, where the guy is a writer? I haven't seen it in a long time, but I think he's in love with the main character in his book... It was kind of odd, but it was the first thing to pop into my mind when I read this... ;-)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Mindi, I think I am just a little bit in love with at least two of my characters. :) It helps to write the romantic feelings realistically. said...

way cool. interesting.

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