Letting Your Characters Do WTF They Like

You’re the author. You are the evil puppet master. You make your characters dance. You force the naughty buggers into the shape you want them.

 yeah right

Nice in theory, yeah. Sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes all the planning and intentions and promises fall over when the characters you’ve created don’t fit the box you had all ready for them.

I’m writing this from a fanfiction perspective specific to writing and posting serially, in which case you often don’t have the option to go back and retcon your character into the mold you require. For me, it applies whether I’m posting serially or not. My characters become living, breathing, real people to me, and I can no more force them to do what I want than I can my husband or my own children. Sure, I can control the situations they are put into (my characters, not my family) but I cannot control what they do once they get there.

Thing is, you’re not supposed to do this. You are the boss of your characters and they are supposed to do what you tell them. And yet, when I attempt to do this, it comes out forced, stilted, and I end up scrapping a chapter I’ve just written. And the more I force it, the more I end up scrapping.

I recently forced myself to ‘watch’ as a couple of 16 year olds went all the way when I was adamant that they should not be having sex at that point in their relationship. And then my jaw hit the floor when one of them had a quite moving and unexpected emotional reaction afterward. Yes, I’m the author. Yes, I choose every one of the words that make up those scenes. But I’m fucked if I’m going to not write what really happens.

Because when it comes down to it, that is what really happened.

It’s gotta be a good thing if your characters are that well realised and you know them well enough to know what they would and wouldn’t do in any given situation, right? If the story is so real to you, the author, that forcing it into an unreal form feels so incredibly wrong that you cannot abide what you’ve written if you haven’t listened to your characters, then I say listen to the bloody characters! What happens in your story might be politically incorrect, or it might be completely in contrast to your outline, or you might be breaking promises you made to your readers…

Fuck it. The story will be more real—more realistic—and better overall than if you tried to force a square peg into a round hole.

And there is my fuck-the-rules post, my NaNo blogging procrastination, and my explanation for a certain chapter I recently posted, all rolled into one Wednesday blog post :D Now, I’m off to break a few promises while I listen to my Deja Vu boys and let them show me how Chapter 6 is going to go down ;)

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3 responses to “Letting Your Characters Do WTF They Like

  • sapphirescribe

    I struggle with this so incredibly much. I try to get them to stick to the outline (either the story outline or the character outline) so hard that I get completely blocked. Epically blocked. Like, can’t write anything even an entirely different story line kind of blocked. I think the ability to let your characters do wtf they like comes with time and a totally different kind of discipline. This is one of those things that I know in theory but completely fail at in practice.

  • vampireisthenewblack

    This is why I’ve given up on doing too detailed outlines. My characters never ever stick to it. There is a fine line, I find, between letting them do what they want/need to do, and going off on some weird ass tangent. I get more tangents than success, to be honest, so both forcing it and giving the characters space are risky endeavours. It’s fucking hard, this writing gig LOL Practise helps, though. I’m still figuring shit out here, it’s all experimentation. I’m hoping like hell this chapter 6 of Deja Vu works this time. I swear I’ve written it about 5 times by now >.<

  • venis

    *covers eyes and waits*

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