19 May 2009

Embracing Free Will

Now that the maniacal laughter has subsided... I thought we could discuss free will and our characters' abilities to act on their own. Because I believe that by providing our characters specific personalities governed by specific laws and by allowing them to reside in our subconscious minds, we hand them that proverbial apple.

For non-writers, it's hard to grasp the idea that characters have the ability to act on their own. We've all heard a writer say something along the lines of, "And then Sally decided she wasn't going to break up with Tom, and I had to rethink my entire ending," only to hear non-writers respond with something like, "Sally's not real. You control her. Just write her breaking up with him."

If we embrace reality long enough to be honest with ourselves, the reason behind this behavior can be boiled down to one sentence: the author didn't have a firm grasp of the character when planning that scene/plot point and discovered at the last minute that it was no longer in-character.

If we're avoiding reality, the reason is equally simple: our characters lash out against us for complicating their lives (no matter how well we have it work out in the end) and do things to intentionally mess up our master plans.

Aryli and her Anjidian companions most certainly fall into that latter category, reality or no.

Throughout the course of the novel, various characters have:
  • stormed out of rooms when I wanted them to stay and have a conversation;
  • gone to one locale when I wanted them to go to another;
  • revealed things I didn't want revealed;
  • betray characters I didn't intend for them to betray; and
  • killed characters I didn't intend for them to kill.
I often found myself wondering who was actually telling the story. Based on how much the characters changed my pretty little outline, I'd say it wasn't me.

What have your characters done that messed up your game plan? Or improved it?


beth said...

I've been much more open to having the characters react naturally rather than forcing them to enact the plot with this WIP, and it sounds more realistic. I think that's the key: having them make logical decisions based on their characters, not doing what makes the plot flow.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Mine meddle constantly. I have to say I end up please with the result, even if it means having to rework the last 2/3 of the book to include a character that avoided death.

Joyce Wolfley said...

I've tried to force my characters to do things and it really doesn't work. They tell me right away that they wouldn't really do something. It's annoying really.

Danyelle said...

What game plan? O:) I'm just here to write down what my characters want me to say. Once we got our relationship worked out, it's been good. :D

Litgirl01 said...

They have their own mind...which is crazy fun!!! :-)

Eric said...

I'm constantly finding the characters taking me through the story rather than the other way around. I'm just the reporter, they're making up the news as they go.

Anna Lefler said...

I love it when my characters boss me around. Then I know I'm on the right track...

I think that's one of the most magical parts of the process...

:-D Anna

Victoria Dixon said...

It wasn't until I let my characters do what they would do as the people I invented that the novel came alive. It's like they said, "If you're going to go to the trouble of creating me, you'd better let me act according to the will you gave me."