Friday, April 5, 2013

Showing unexpected character

First, you guys are so awesome. You all had such wonderful things to say on IWSG on Wednesday. If I haven’t made it to your blog yet, don’t worry, I’m on my way. You guys rock.

Second, I’m plowing away on a new manuscript. It has a name. I don’t know if I should share yet. I love the idea of it, but already my characters are getting into shenanigans of their own. And twice I’ve had to ask characters to leave the scene (they gave me the finger and sat down front and center). I’m not usually that person who talks about the characters like they have minds of their own. Usually, I know my characters, and they behave.

Well, what did I expect from pirates anyway?

So yes, I’m writing a story about pirates who have to save the world from a dominating order of priests with a tendency to burn people at the stake for fun.

It’s in the awkward phase where my characters are giving me the stink eye because I keep playing them wrong. It’s like I’m a bad director with mutinous actors, and they keep doing it their own way. I’m sure we’ll negotiate a cease fire soon.

Which brings me to something else: I’m not usually that writer who talks about my characters taking off with a story. I’ve never really been surprised by my characters before, and they most certainly have never given me the finger. I’m a little taken aback (possibly even mildly offended). And since my characters have never acted this way, I’m sort of in that awkward place where I’m asking “but wait, how do I know you lot have the brains to make a good story? I even outlined this one! I never do outlines!”

Mostly they have responded with, “You got any rum?” Not very reassuring.

Until recently, I’ve always had really well behaved characters. Sure they’d surprise me with what they said every now and then, but these characters feel like a force of nature. I’m sure this is some sign that this book is going to suck, but that’s what first drafts are for: suckage. I must now practice my new mantra: Revisions will fix what my characters break.

How about you? Do your characters hair off with the plot, give you the finger and write themselves into something totally unexpected? Did it work out, or did you have to revise the potato peels out of the manuscript? Do you think it’s lazy writing to let the characters wander away with the story?


  1. My characters always write the story, no matter what is going on in my brain. Darn those stubborn characters, but hey, they always seem to know better anyway ;)

    Good luck with those pirates!

  2. It's usually a sign I am doing something right when the characters take off with the story. I usually spend a moment to figure out the next few scenes in the new direction, and then keep writing. Some of my favorite moments are when my characters take over. :D

  3. I'm still laughing about your "what did I expect from pirates?" line. Hilarious :)

  4. Oh yes, this happens to me a lot. Like Elizabeth says, it's a sign I'm doing something right. Just go with the flow.

  5. "I’m sure this is some sign that this book is going to suck"... Uhm... no. It means you're onto something awesome.

    Forget the outline and go where the characters lead you. Although, since they're pirates, you might want to take a friend. ;-P

  6. I would think it's a good sign. :) Strong characters make strong stories, yes?

  7. Maybe you should have some rum and see where it goes?

    Love pirate stories, I'm sure it will be awesome!

  8. I admit, I popped over to see what the other commenters said about this because character mutiny happens to me a lot--to the point I sometimes wonder why I even attempt to outline my story. It's an incredibly fun way to write! However, it does worry me that I won't be able to figure anything out in revision, so I 'm relieved to see your brilliant commenters assure you that things might turn out okay.
    (And after all, since your characters are written by you, isn't this just another way to tell a story except with your subconscious at the helm instead of your rational, logical self?)
    Meanwhile, arrr, matey ... have fun with this!


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