The relationship between a writer and her fictional characters is one that I find to be fascinating. I know that for me, the characters I create in my novels and short stories become living beings. They aren’t just words on a page, but they become living, breathing humans (and sometimes animals or even inanimate objects) that have personalities. They gain a voice, habits, needs, and yes, even attitudes.
Fictional characters can even go so far as gaining their own agendas. Many times I will have a plan. I’ll have the chapter or scene worked out: A leads to B and then we’ll end at C. Done. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes the characters have something else in mind, and instead my well thought out chapter looks like this: A leads to D and then we zip over to F and now I have no idea where it will go.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it sabotage on my nice, neat little idea. But it feels like that sometimes. I might sound crazy (and that’s ok) but there have been times when I’ll be writing and I’ll say out loud, “What are you doing?” or “Stop. Just stop!” ….and of course the character doesn’t stop whatever he or she is doing because they will write the story how they want it, and that’s how it should be. As a writer, you’ve placed your characters into a world – given them names, homes, occupations, relationships, blessings, and conflicts. Once they’re in that world for awhile, being affected by everything you’ve set up, how could they not react?
It’s usually around the middle of the novel or short story that my characters really start to give me attitude. That’s about the time I start seeing them taking over and making changes to the scene, chapter, or sometimes even the greater plot. Most of the time I try to stay out of their way. It’s their world, so I let them navigate it to a point. As the author, it’s still my responsibility to get them from the beginning to the end, but everything in between the characters play a great role in deciding the outcome.
Admittedly, my characters are usually well-behaved. But there’s always one. There’s always one character that is continually stubborn. One that doesn’t want to do what I tell him/her to do. One that talks back. One that goes off and does crazy things. One that leaves me pulling my hair out or scrambling to try and fix what they’ve ruined. One character that makes me mumble the words, “Don’t make me kill you.”
Authors and their characters – it’s a co-dependent relationship, and I believe that co-dependance goes both ways. If the characters didn’t have me to write them, they wouldn’t exist. They couldn’t move forward, couldn’t conquer their fears or grow as people. But without them, I would be missing something too. Not that I could ever stop writing. Even when I’m not at my computer, my cast of fictional characters – present, past, and future – dance around my head and make mischief, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.