Don’t Argue With the Characters

I used to read books and think ‘Man! Can that so-and-so make-up a great story!’ Then, I started writing my own books, and I realized that you may start out making up the story, but it soon takes on a life of its own. It becomes a story that you’re not creating, but rather telling. As the writer, you want certain things to happen. You want your characters to do this or that, but they just won’t do it. I often wondered if it was just me. Maybe I was doing it wrong. But at the end of Draculas, the emails that were exchanged between J.A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, F.Paul Wilson, and Jeff Strand comforted me. In one of the emails, one of them said, “See what you can do with these characters. I’ve been trying to make them fight, but all I can get them to do is trash talk each other.” I laughed out loud. Literally. I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong because other writers were having the same problem. Sometimes, characters really do take on a life of their own. Their have their own agendas, their own wills, and sometimes they’re just downright stubborn.

My friend/beta reader gets a kick out of me being surprised by my stories as they change and evolve. I do too, but sometimes it’s frustrating for me if I want the story to move one way, but it ends up going in the opposite direction because one of my characters is hard-headed. I love that my stories surprise me. I think I have the perfect story all laid out before me, and as I write it, it becomes something else, something even more perfect than I had planned. It is a rush, to say the least.

My new novel RAGE is a great example of characters coming to life. One of the secondary characters, Carly, was supposed to be just that – a secondary character. She was supposed to only have a few speaking lines throughout the story. Halfway through the book, she became much more than I wanted her to be. She ended up with as many – if not more – speaking lines than the main character, Brian. She refused to sit idly by and watch the story unfold without participating. So I let her have her way. I learned a long time ago to not argue with my characters. They usually know what they’re doing. In the same story, the main character Brian was supposed to be a good kid pushed too far who ended up doing bad things. But he just wouldn’t do the bad things I wanted him to do. He turned out to be too good a kid to do anything bad.

Though I ramble, my point is never be mad at the author when the story you’re reading turns out differently than you wanted it to. Chances are, it turned out differently than they wanted it to also.


About Kimberly A Bettes

I whittle away the minutes of my life by entertaining myself with various projects and people. One thing is certain. I'm never bored. I also write stuff and take pictures of things.

Posted on October 5, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. windwhisperwoods

    This blog post is so spot on I don’t know where to begin. I once tried to describe it to a non-writer, saying it’s almost like I’m reading the story instead of writing it. As my fingers type the words I’m merely following along. It sounds to me like you’re what they call a “Pantser” or that you fly by the seat of your pants. I’m the same way. And like me you probably have an outline, rough as it may be, or, like you wrote in the post, a good idea of where you want the story to go. But, as you also wrote, sometimes the story and/or characters can take you into whole different directions. Sometimes they lead to great places, sometimes they lead to dead ends. But it’s always magical and that’s what makes writing so damned fun!
    Great post.

  2. Great post. Characters do tend to live in their world, don’t they? I’ve had this happen in my novel as well. The best stories just happen.


  3. This is so familiar -when my characters naturally go in another direction – I follow them. It’s usually more interesting!

  4. Yes, I’ve found that in almost every case, the characters know more about what they should be doing or where they should be going that I do, so I sit back and watch. I told my friend once, “It’s their story. I’m just telling it.”

  1. Pingback: Moral Crimes and Figurative Purgatory | L.M. Gil's Blog

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