I’ve been revising my first book and something struck me.
I have given my characters a personality of their own. I have complete control over everything I write, but I personally don’t like making my characters doing anything out of … character. After all, if they’re “out of character,” then are they still the character that I created? I have created them uniquely with a specific set of wants and desires, habits and thought process. As part of my writing process, I even assign them each a specific Meyers-Briggs personality typography to help me understand them and how they would interact.
Now, as I’m developing those characters, there are things that I want them to do, but I can’t make them do it. I tell myself, “It would really help my plot if Evander would do or say this … but he’s not the kind of person who would do that, so I’m not going to force that kind of writing on him.”
Instead, I am left to incorporate into my plot whatever my characters would naturally do themselves. In my first draft I failed to do this and I do not feel my characters ever truly came to life. But restricting my control over them to the things they would naturally do – that somehow brings them to life. Instead of wheels and cogs in my plot-machine, they really drive the story.
I first started seeing this when I began my third book. I tried to develop an outline, but in the first 60 or so pages I found I had deviated from that outline so drastically that I had to re-write the whole plan. Why? Because my characters wouldn’t do what I had planned for them to do.
This is rather silly because I’m the one writing them. They’re just ink on a page (or, rather, pixelated letters on a screen). Yet somehow I’m forced to dance my plot around the fact that they don’t perfectly do what I want them to do, even though I’m the one creating them and their world and everything about them in the first place.
It’s rather infuriating when your creations, over whom you have total domination and control, won’t do as their told … Yet it is simultaneously beautiful to know that this is what proves they are real, at least to me, which in my story is all that matters. It helps to know that, one way or another, the book will end the way I want it to, and the major plot developments will still happen. But no one likes a book for the plot if the characters feel fake or contrived. For that matter, I wouldn’t like my own book if I didn’t love the characters I created and they weren’t real to me.
I bet many church folk can understand this concept.