Thursday, March 16, 2006

Listening To Your Characters

Looks like this writer hasn't been musing for awhile. Sorry about that! I have to say in my defense, however, I wrote a lot of pages in book #2 since my last post. I've also revised my outline and worked out a very interesting plot twist, thanks to certain characters telling me what they were up to!

I know that sounds weird to any non-writers who are reading this, but sometimes our characters don't behave the way we had planned. It's not like we hear voices or anything (well, most of us anyway), but our characters do "tell" us when they don't like something. They'll refuse to go any further until we listen to them. Most of the time, they're right.

I have one character who is an FBI agent. When he was interviewing my protagonist, she seemed to know he was up to something, even if this writer didn't. A couple of days ago I figured out what it was--hence the plot twist. Sometimes I hate it when the characters know more than I do! I've tried arguing with them, usually because I don't want to have to revise my outline. It doesn't work. I've found that if I fight them and refuse to change anything, they win anyway because the story sucks. They love to say, "Told you so!"

I've found that if you listen to your characters, they become three dimensional. No writer wants cookie-cutter characters, and no reader wants to read about them. If you box them in and don't let them loose once in awhile, the story becomes stiff and the characters unrealistic.

The other side to this is to not let the characters run amuck. If you let them revolt, every character wants to be the most important. Before you know it, they've taken over and your story becomes a mish-mash of unconnected subplots.

I guess it's kind of like raising children. You want each child to be an individual. You let them have some freedom, but there are still boundaries. Just like with children, you can't let your characters take over the household. You have to reign them in once in awhile.

Just don't spank your characters--unless that's what they want, of course.

7 comments:

Kristine said...

Great post, Joyce! You should make this into an article. I especially love the reference to children. Sometimes you really do have to set your characters free to find out who they are.
~Kristine

Joyce said...

I was actually thinking of expanding this into an article. I thought maybe for Byline? If you know of any other magazines that might be interested, let me know.

kathie said...

Hi Joyce, I just joined pgh sisters in crime and saw that you had a blog...love it! I grew up in Glenshaw, btw. Anyway, my characters are always doing what you discussed, burrowing through plot developments I wasn't aware were there until the characters showed me...insane, maybe...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of characters....this is your sister, Amy. Joyce, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. Guess so far I am not exactly a contributor...just living vicariously through my creative sister. Wish we lived closer. Now that we are older and wiser...at least I am, HA, HA--I think you could bring out more of my own creative side. I am very proud of your work and your initiative and enthusiasm. I will continue to watch and enjoy....Love, Amy

Anonymous said...

So are you telling us that you've been diagnosed with multiple personalities? Josh could probably help with that, hehe. :-p

Anonymous said...

Hi Joyce: This is your eldest sister, Carole. I am so proud of you....the blog. Who would have thought? You did inherit much from Mother including the writing jean and definitely "the look". I don't think that I can do that....I always laughed if I tried (so did no kids). I would like to see you write some about your childhood and more about mother. Can you fix me up? Love you.

Anonymous said...

Whoops!!! Did you catch "jean"???? No wonder my kids laugh at me. C