Thursday, March 02, 2006

Careening Out of Control....

I enjoyed Allison's post about characters, especially the bit where she said something about having to let her characters grow up, and give up control.

Frankly, I'm amazed at authors who talk about making their characters do things. I've been asked to give workshops on creating characters. And I have realized--now that I have attempted to do it twice--that I have absolutely no clue how I create characters. It's such a subconscious process, that I discover them, more than create them. They're new people that I have to get to know, not characters I consciously "create." Which is probably why those charts and things don't work very well for me.

And it's probably why I have absolutely no control over my characters whatsoever.

They won't even let me name them. (Yes, I'm whining now.) I have to wait and use my development notes or my "morning pages" (which are written just as often in the evening as in the morning) to see what name bubbles up out of my swamp. Sometimes the characters come strolling out and hand me the name as they present themselves to me with a demand that I tell their story. If they won't let me name them, they certainly won't let me dictate behavior.

In my book, The Barbed Rose (Blog Break for Shameless Self-promotion: on the shelves Now, from LUNA Books, ISBN 0-373-80225-0, second in The One Rose Trilogy: End Break) I spent several months begging and pleading that my characters not make me write certain scenes. I mean, my Dad reads my books. That's worse than my Mom reading them. But no, they ignored me completely and went off and did whatever they wanted. Several times. And again for good measure.

But I wouldn't trade anything for the bunch of lunatics that live in my swamp. They might be completely out of my control, but they're a whole lot of fun. I just try to keep up with them.


Patti O'Shea said...

Gail, I could have written your post nearly word for word! I never get to name my characters either, and when I saw a blog discussion about choosing names, I was just floored. I think it was the first time I realized that not everyone is as driven by their characters as I am. The closest I get to choosing their names is when they say, my name starts with an R. Then I page through the baby name books until they tell me I found the right name. Usually, though, it happens like it did with the heroine of THROUGH A CRIMSON VEIL. I was walking down the hall, and she says, "Mika." No other details, just her name. Then I have to figure out who she is and which story she belongs to.

As for dictating their behavior, forget it! If I try to do things my way, progress grinds to a screeching halt. This happened to me in ETERNAL NIGHTS. I had Wyatt kiss Kendall in chapter 5. I was able to write one more chapter, but then I was stuck. I spun my wheels for weeks before the problem came to light. Once I fixed that, the rest of the book flowed easily.

My characters appear as fully formed, complete people. The only thing I have to do is get to know them, and then get out of their way as I write their story. :-)


Allison Brennan said...

LOL, love your post!

Sometimes, my character names just come to me. Like Olivia in THE KILL, as soon as the story idea came to me, so did Olivia. Named.

But in my latest WIP, my heroine had several names. Nothing "fit" although I knew it started with a "C". Go figure, LOL. So I was skimming a website of just female girls names and CARINA just jumped out at me. It was her name. And she was like, "I just can't believe you didn't know from the beginning. I had to hit you over the head a dozen times." She's going to be a problem, I can already tell . . .