Wrestling with Your Characters

Tapping a Pencil

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I’ve had a hard time writing my novel for the past couple of days – not because I was not in the mood to write, or because I was procrastinating, but because every time I sat down to write the next chapter, I got off the chair and did something else.  Now, that may have sound as procrastination, but I knew that was not the case.  I decided to think about it some more.  Why did I turned back once I decided to write that next chapter?  It puzzled me and annoyed me as well.

Pondering about the issue, I discovered that I was having an issue with one of my characters.  Yes, as weird as it sounds, this character had grown strong and had taken over, behaving and reacting differently from what I had planned.  Opening that computer file to write meant having a writer’s confrontation with my character.  This presented an issue that I disliked to ponder – had I lost control of my novel?  Was I being intimidated by one of my characters?  I had to ponder about this even when I did not like the idea.  I did.

My findings were very interesting.  I had to admit that I was wrestling with this character from the beginning of the story, like it or not.  The problem is that it is my main character.  This issue presented another bigger issue – should I stop writing the novel, should I continue wrestling, or should I listen to this character and give in to it?  In this case, is her.  Well, I needed to decide, otherwise my story would be frozen indefinitely.  I did.

I realized that I had to go back to the beginning of the story and try to understand this character’s reasons.  I decided to look for the moment when the writer-character conflict started and understand the why.  This is my compromise with her.  To some of you, this may seem bizarre and a bit “cuckoo” but it is the compromise I had to do to continue writing the story.  I agreed to put my writing aside until I go back to those chapters and realize my issue with it – after all, it is my issue, and not the character’s issue.  I created it, and I am having the problem; or is it a challenge?  Does that mean that after all, I am in control of the story?  Well, I cannot answer that until I find out, and that is another post.

The Rebellion of Characters

A public domain image of Frank Thomas' Golden ...

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When I set out to write my first novel,one of my main characters rebelled.  I had planned for this character to be and behave a certain way – geeky, fun, and second to the female of the story.  I began to write the story, and immediately I felt resistance from this character.  Since it was my first novel, I found this amusing, interesting, and thought to myself, “what the heck, it is just one of the characters.”  Little did I know, you should never treat a character as “just one of the characters,” and he showed me that.

My character took the lead, presented himself strong, and the total opposite to what I had planned – a hottie, smart, with a soft side and a dangerous side as well.  I let him be, and I am glad that I did that.  The result was amazing to me, he shaped the story, but did not in any way opaque the main female character.

I could have gone with my original intention and fight this character all the way to the end of the story; however, I was at the perfect stage of experimentation.  I learned a lot, and I have to thank in part this character.  My point to this post is to let yourself experiment, and don’t be afraid of letting go of a preset order of chapters, characters, and outline.  Write with love, enjoy it, have fun.