HELP, MY CHARACTERS KEEP WRITING THEMSELVES
Posted on January 7, 2013
We try to create outlines, story maps or trait charts to corral our characters, but even with all that they still step up and write their own fates.
I've found this not to be frustrating but exhilarating. I want my character to make their own decisions. It's one of the earmarks of a character coming into their own.
With Fractured, the joint novel I am writing with Keith Robinson, I put together a very slim summary of each chapter. I normally write my stories with a one-page brainstorm list that is all over the map and often only a glimpse at scenes for the first half of the book. Because our stories need to hit similar mile markers and tell parallel parables of paradox, we both had to show our cards. Keith works much tighter than me, delivering far more detail in his chapter summaries.
Even with our chapter breakdowns, we both found our characters opening up and scrambling through our scenes with more and more volition and heartiness. Characters that were scant in the outline, resolved into finer focus, developing a wider range of emotions and reactions as well as richer interconnected histories.
This type of character evolution makes the writing process more rewarding, surprising and creates an emotional tether between the writer and their characters. I had no idea how affecting Logan's mother would be until her character came to life. She helped me invest more in the writing and in turn the payoff should be more investment for the readers.
The fear is there that breathing too much life into a character will derail your story, cause it to meander or go a route that's a dead end. I've been fortunate that nothing like that has happened in my novels yet.
When readers bounce back and forth between Keith's protagonist and my own, they will immerse themselves in worlds where characters sustain an emotional connection and attain a dynamic that is thoroughly unique. I can't express enough how distinctive the story unfolds in this novel.
It's a thing of beauty and I can't wait to see the finished piece. Both Keith and I are done the first act and are barreling into the second with a verisimilitude that is invigorating.