Sunday, June 7, 2015
When Characters Take Control - Part 2
When it comes to making your characters fall in love, you never really get to decide who with. It may sound silly to a non-writer that you don’t get to plan Character A falling in love with Character B, but in my experience, it’s true.
In my latest crime book, number 7 ‘Ghosts’, I had planned on Character A falling in love with Character B, who was supposed to be protecting them from Character C. Character B is a secret agent undercover in a gang, protecting Character A, the daughter of a very important, main character, from Character C, who is a very brutal gang member. Now, this had been planned for a while, probably about two months, before I actually got around to starting writing this book out properly. Guess what happened?
I come to writing the book, I write maybe eight chapters, building up to Characters A and B falling in love and it’s working. It sounds absolutely fine and it reads well. Then, I write about how Character C is angry that someone else is dating the girl he wants. Suddenly, when I decide to make him do something about it, everything goes haywire. Suddenly, Character B is a bad guy too…suddenly Character C is hot and sexy and really seductive. Suddenly Character A is torn between the seemingly ‘good’ guy and the seemingly ‘bad’ guy.
Even to me it was an OMG! moment. You know when you totally didn’t see something coming but how it completely turns the whole book around. That’s what happened to me. I saw it happening in my head, as I stalled in writing. I couldn’t write how I had originally planned it - it seemed wrong. This new path just popped up right in front of me and I couldn’t avoid it. So, I decided to trust it. I wrote out a new path leading off from this one, keeping the old one in case I really made a mistake and needed to go back to the drawing board. But suddenly everything was making sense. This major twist, that I hadn’t even expected, created two more major twists and I was like - WOW, this is incredible - and within a few minutes I had the whole thing plotted out for the new path. It took less time to plot this path with the new twists than it did for me to make my lunch yesterday.
And what happened? Because I’d put in this major re-write to the plot, suddenly other things were sticking out at me, screaming ‘Fix me too!’ and I’m sitting staring at them thinking that they’re all wrong. I had to take the entire future storyline for Character D and build them a new future out of nothing, just because my changes to Characters A, B and C, had shown me the way.
Now, don’t go thinking I’m just trying to be ‘provocative’ or ‘whimsical’ by saying that my characters did all this by themselves. I’m too tired for that. Each and every day, I’m exhausted beyond belief and lucky to get out of my bed, I don’t have the brain power to make this kind of thing up, which is why I work off plans, written when I’m more awake. No, I don’t plan what I write unless it’s random plot events and conversations I’ve thought long and hard about. Once I sit down to write a novel, I very rarely plan anything. I just pose my fingers over the keys, pick the right document and let it flow. Half the time I don’t even know where things come from, but I’ll tell you honestly, that the characters do most of the work. All I do is give them a name and a face and a personality. They write the story themselves.