Inside the mind of a fantasy writer

Stubborn Characters

While working on my current WIP, I have noticed something about my writing process and was wondering if I am alone on this.

Characters.  Do they push you around?  Do they assume complete control of your story?

To me, the answer is yes.  I admit it.  As a writer I sometimes find myself with my hands tied and at the mercy of my characters.  Screw killing that bad guy, that little dude will never win no matter how much I think he should.

Sometimes my characters are like bratty little kids that scream and yell until they get their way.  It’ll get to a point that no matter how much I try I can’t make them do anything they don’t ‘want’ to do.

Now before you start thinking I’m nuts, let me explain myself little.  I am the ‘no outline’ type of writer, the one that starts with an initial idea and the rest of the story writes itself.  I never know what’s going to happen at the end until I write it.

Some writers will write different parts of their story at different times, like writing the ending then the beginning and then the middle.  I CAN NOT do that.  It’s impossible for me.  I think it’s partly due to getting to know my characters better as the story goes on and knowing what they will do and what they won’t.  Then comes that point in the story that becomes problematic.  It usually pops up around the middle.  I’m building up to that exciting high point in the story that I planned when I started writing and-I can’t do it.  The characters won’t cooperate and they change the story on me.  On me!  Their creator!  Ah!  Such brats!

I make the characters and the characters make the story.  It is their story after all so it’s understandable that their thoughts will shape it.  I’m just the goddess that resides over them, tossing annoying and deadly things their way or other mysterious things ‘goddesses’ do.  I’m the one they would curse if they were human because I’m always making their lives miserable and chaotic. (Hee hee)

Just because I can’t control my characters, it doesn’t make me a bad writer.  It just shows how I write.  I’m a pushover when it comes to my characters, they always get what they want.

So fellow writers weigh in on the subject.

Question time…

Do your characters control the storyline or are you the sole dictator?

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22 responses

  1. Hmmm…I guess I never thought about it that way. I think in my perspective I give my characters their lives and tell them how they will live them through my original plotline. However, as time goes on and I get to know who they’ve become I let them persuade me to let them go another direction. So do my characters wage all out war to get their way? No. Can they sweet talk me there? Yep!

    May 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    • Oh yes, sweet talk they can.

      May 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

  2. OMG I totally get it! And the teenage characters are the worst, or maybe that’s just me 😉 They take me on wild rides and the whole time my fingers are flying across the keys I’m saying in my head “WTF are you doing? Why are you running away? Get back here and face your shame like a man!” And the character is like ‘Screw you, I’m NOT dealing. So there!”

    But it usually ends up that they’re right and the scene ends up being better than the one I had imagined. But it’s still annoying!! So glad I didn’t have kids 😉

    May 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    • I agree, following their lead always seems to make the story better. I’ve only had a few teenagers in my stories but I’ve never had a problem with them changing the stroy. They also have been just minor characters so that is probably the reason why. I didn’t develop them enough to give them that kind of control on the story.

      May 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm

  3. Like you, I don’t work for a detailed outline. Sometimes my characters seem to want to go in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. When that happens, I just keep writing and see where it ends up. Sometimes, they’re on to something and the story flows, but if they go off on a tangent that diverts from my main theme, I whip them back into shape. Letting the characters do their ‘own thing’ can sometimes make a story better, but I never forget that they’re my creations, and like children, I sometimes have to pull them back into line. I guess what I’m saying is that my writing is a collaborative process with ‘me’ and the ‘characters’ playing a role in where the story goes. It can be a pain sometimes, though, can’t it?

    May 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    • Oh, yes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😉

      May 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  4. Sorry, I meant to say ‘from’ a detailed outline. Sometimes my fingers develop a mind of their own as well.

    May 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  5. TheOthers1

    Yes, for sure, and definitely. They treat me like I have no say. I understand this completely! Lol

    May 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    • I know right?! I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling this way.

      May 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  6. i would agree that the character thing happens because you don’t have an outline, but i would not blame that on the characters. what i mean is they’re not being pushy or taking over. it’s more like you aren’t giving them any boundaries, so they don’t know where you go. also, because you have not clearly defined them – and they’re slowly defining themselves – there is no way of knowing where they’re going to end up. and i’m not saying any of this is bad. some people like chocolate ice cream, and some people like pepperoni. i mean, some people like plain pizza, and some people like vanilla. aw f*ck. you get the idea.

    anyway, i can’t write that way because i’ll feel like i’m going on a vacation but i don’t know where. i would feel like i was just getting in a car and driving, no directions or map, just going….going…somewhere. maybe you can have a great vacation that way, but i’m guessing most of the time you won’t. that’s me. but that’s not you, and if you’re happy with how you’re writing, then that’s fine.

    writing is such a personal thing that it would not make sense to “work” in a kind of way that you don’t like. you won’t be comfortable, and you’ll have a negative attitude from the start. however, it might be a good idea to try outlining and see how it goes. you might or might not have seen my 5 part series on the writing process. i explain what most writers do when they’re outlining and following a regular, specific writing process. if you’ve already read it, then great. if you’ve tried it, even better. and if you tried it a while back, maybe try it again. and if you tried it and you know there’s no way it works for you, then have some pepperoni ice cream.

    May 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    • Ha, ha, thanks Rich. And yes, it is probably due to my lack of boundaries set for them. One of the things I hated about writing classes is rules so most likely I would not follow your five step thing (sorries). It’s probably why I never produced anything considered ‘great’ in school or was considered having any kind of ‘talent’ in writing. I’m in the pepporoni ice cream catagory….except I’d rather call it ‘steak’ cause that tastes better. I’ve tried outlining before and used to do more of it when I first started writing but it didn’t work well for me. The more stories I wrote, the outlines got less and less until it became what it is now, just a list of names, towns and dates so I don’t forget anything. I’m like that in real life too, I like to hop in the car and drive without a destination in mind. Just drifting and enjoying the ride. I’m not a grounded person. I’d use the word, ‘flighty’, to describe myself but that sounds negative. So I admit it..it’s not all my character’s fault. I, personally can’t stick to an outline or carry an orginal idea all the way though. I get bored. And have to change it up and what I like changes from day to day.

      May 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      • maybe your writing wasn’t considered “great” because the people in charge didn’t know what great writing really was. i’ll send you a copy of one of my outlines so you can see that it doesn’t have to be places and times and names and such. it might work for you, or it might be another reason for you to be sure you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.

        May 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  7. Brandon Scott

    I’m a bit in both camps, usually I let them boss me around, but occasionally, just to mix things up, I say “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Then I kill one of them and watch the rest fall in line with my plans for a few minutes.

    May 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    • I seriously LOLd just now!!!!! HAHAHA! Writers are sadistic and I LOVE it!!

      May 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    • I love that!

      May 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

  8. I Have the whole out line of the story in my head I know where A is and B when i start they occasionally tie me in knots and throw a few curves balls at me along the way but I manage to herd them in the right direction except my bad guy who knows his demise is near and is desperately playing for time and extra chapters by suggesting other ideas in my head which is quite distracting. Sadly for him its not gonna work and he will die in three cha[ters time because the other characters told me thats when he has to

    May 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    • Ha ha, they told you he has to die? That’s awesome!

      May 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

  9. Reblogged this on 42 Webs.

    May 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm

  10. Oh yes, they always seem to take on a life of their own. And that in turn leads them to making their own decisions, having their own thoughts, and generally causing trouble. Not much you can do, short of lobotomizing them! That might make a good story…

    May 12, 2012 at 12:04 am

    • You should so write something about that! Ha ha 🙂

      May 12, 2012 at 8:45 am

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