Life Infused Characters

I am a planner. My basic nature is to run scenarios through my head and figure out all the possible disasters and blessings that could happe...

I am a planner. My basic nature is to run scenarios through my head and figure out all the possible disasters and blessings that could happen by making a single action. Of course I transferred this organizational tactic of mine to benefit my writing style.

Every book I have ever written has been extensively planned before I even sat down to write the first word. I figure out who my characters are. I put little tabbies in character trait books. I print out face claims for each character. I write down quotes I want them to say and random little quirks
they can have...ect.

Whenever I make such exhaustive plans, though, I find that my characters don't agree. Over time, they grow. They become PEOPLE rather than mere ideas that I can manipulate. I know it's silly, but it's almost as if these fictional characters become real. They go from inanimate words to breathing, living individuals who make their own choices, defy my outline, and break out of the box I carefully constructed for them.

My current Work In Progress (WIP), was supposed to be a comedy about two best friends who live next to each other and fall in love. My main character was a total nut who danced to the beat of her own drum. She was sweet, kind, and loyal to her loved ones. Well, not even two chapters into my outline, Willow changed. She blossomed into her own person. I'm on chapter 22 of this story, and Willow is now loud, abrasive, rude, and snaps her fingers in z formation. My once nice character is even a bully toward one girl!

And then my character Benjamin Gatlin! He was supposed to go by Ben, but now he's called Gatlin. He was supposed to be a big brute who had no cares for rules or the safety of people. He lived for the thrill of defiance. Now, he's a big baby who knits sweaters.

Willow was supposed to fall in love with her best friend Newt. It was supposed to be a story about them bridging that gap of friendship and becoming something more before he moved away to a new city. You know what happened instead? Newt started dating another girl. Willow is an angry mess afraid of change.

My story didn't go at all how I planned. The original outline has been scrapped, burned, utterly destroyed and forgotten. This new story is it's own thing I never saw coming.

As frustrating as it is to have characters who don't like to be controlled, it's also a gift. Because these characters are all different. They became individuals. They aren't perfect, which is so ridiculously human and real. Life doesn't go according to plan. Life never plays out like I want it to in my head. And a good book should never happen exactly like the writer plans it either. If the writer knows what's going to happen... so does the reader. A story that follows the original game plan is a predictable story. I think one of the most important things a writer can do is be willing to go wherever the characters want to go. Don't take your outline too seriously. Be willing to let it all go for the sake of your best story. Let it go. Let the magic happen.

I am so sorry for using that gif.

No I'm not. 

The point I'm trying to make is that you can't really create great characters. You can set up the building blocks that will later form unforgettable characters, but ultimately, they take on a life of their own without anybody's permission. They command their own lives. It is our writer's privilege to share the story.

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6 comments

  1. Good blog post! That's pretty much what it was like for my characters too. I won't spoil anything in case you want to read my book someday, but half my characters didn't even exist until I added one particular guy...who was never intended to be a romantic interest for the heroine. Now he's one the one most of my readers love.

    I haven't finished "Willow" yet, but I still want to. This Gatlin guy intrigues me.

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    1. I really do want to read your story! :) Is there a library version or a free version out there I can get my hands on? Or even a sneak peak? I like to read first THEN buy a book xD

      Yeah, Gatlin wasn't supposed to be all that big of a character. Honestly, he wasn't even supposed to exist outside of one chapter! But nope. He had other ideas.

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  2. I totally get what you mean, SJ. My novel, The Touch, has gone through two total rewrites (and rewrites is putting it lightly, I basically threw out my story twice and rewrote it with the same overarching quirk of my characters having superpowers). Any way, my characters totally have minds of their own and I'll hear them in my head telling me what they would and wouldn't do. Yeah, sounds crazy but it happens now and then. Any way, awesome post! If it's okay with you, I may talk about this theme myself at some point.

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    1. It does sound crazy, but I assure you every writer understands what you're talking about xD And yes you can talk about it on your blog! :D Go for it!

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  3. I SO know what you mean! It was the same case with me in one of my stories that I hadn't published on here. Two characters were supposed to get together, but, instead, the MC ended up having more chemistry with his ex that he wasn't supposed to get back together with! I was a little frustrated, but then I decided, "You know what? If that's the direction my characters are going in, then I won't hold them back!"

    I did have a screenwriting teacher tell me that he didn't like the term of the characters having their own life, and, while I understand what he meant, I disagree with the statement. Having characters come to life makes them feel all the more real. You can still manipulate them, but they have their own sense of direction. It's like your subconscious has planned it to be that way, but the rest of you hasn't.

    This is probably getting a little deep, so I'll stop now xD Great post. I think I might start writing my little writing experiences on my blog, too :D

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    1. It's miserable and magical whenever characters just take charge like that! Ugh xD glad you can relate!

      Don't worry about getting deep. I love reading about what you have to say! It's encouraging :) And good luck with your blog <3

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