Non-writers seem to have this misconception that writers are omnipotent. They think we’re masters of our fictional worlds, commanding our characters and plots to do exactly as we wish.
I can promise you that that’s not true in any sense of the word. My plots derail with alarming frequency, and side conversations will spawn the new main impetus for all my characters. The characters… those are what trip me up the most. Because although we made up our characters, they tend to take on a life of their own, and they don’t always agree with our plans for them. Here’s some sample ‘arguments’ I might encounter when my plans for plot and the developing character just don’t mesh.
Character: You know, that guy’s kind of cute… and funny…
Me: *glares* No. Forget about it. This is not a romance, do you hear me? You might as well be a nun under my watch, young lady.
Character: You’re not the boss of me. I’ll like whoever I want.
Me: *breathes deeply* You know what? Fine. Go ahead. See if I care.
Character: Wow… that was easy. But I’m not liking the way you’re looking at me…
Me: *smiles* I’ll just kill him. Deaths add drama, you know.
Character: … Not cool.
Me: You should have listened to me.
Character: I think I hate you.
Character: Let me get this straight. You want me to infiltrate the villain’s super secret, probably heavily defended hideout which is probably chock full of henchmen…
Character: find the villain, who possesses weapons with capabilities I can’t fully comprehend while I’m armed with the clothes I’m wearing and a Frisbee…
Character: And challenge him to a fight to the death?
Me: Uh huh.
Character: That’s stupid.
Me: You’re the hero. He’s the villain. You have to fight him to promote ideals of… whatever. You can’t just sit around watching TV and waiting for someone else to get rid of him.
Character: That sounds pretty nice, actually. I think there’s a Criminal Minds marathon on today.
Me: I need a climactic event!
Character: Do it yourself then. Honestly, you should try doing MY job. You put us through so much crap. We should form a union.
Character 1: Ok, I defeated the villain and saved the world. What now?
Me: *consults notes* Hmm… you die.
Character 1: Excuse me?
Me: It’s nothing personal. It’s just that I hate how heroes these days get off scot-free. It’s not realistic. Sorry about that.
Character 1: That’s not fair. I’ve gone through way too much to die now. You have to admit you’ve gotten attached.
Me: *sigh* Ok… maybe we can settle for maimed.
Character 1: No can do. My job description requires full mobility, remember?
Me: Ok, fine. What about mentally scarred? That’s my final offer.
Character 1: Exactly how scarred?
Me: *shrugs* Let’s try ostracized from your community, torn over killing someone, and separated from your best friend since he’s forced to return to the life he’s been running away from since his brother died.
Character 1: *thinks* Yeah, I can live with that.
Character 2: Wait… what?
Character 1: Sucks to be you.
I know other writers who have the same sort of problems, some who seem to have complete dictator-like control over their creations, and some who’ve just given up and let their errant children run where they will. What about you? How much of a free rein do you give your characters?