When the Characters Take Control…

Nothing excites me more than when my characters get disobedient.  When they refuse to do what I have planned for them.  When they go off in their own direction, completely unexpectedly.

Statements like that have produced strange looks from some of my acquaintances, but I see you nodding out there, you writers.  You know what it’s like.

Invariably, the characters have better ideas than I do.  Their refusal to do as I planned usually points out something about their intrinsic nature that deepens and enriches the story.  It’s just delightful.  This is what I love best about the creative process.

For example, one of the characters from my recent fantasy release, The Betrayal, has been bugging me to write about an event that took place before the time frame of that book.  This is Jharan, the governor of Southfæld, for those who’ve read the book.  He’s been insisting that I write about his becoming governor.  Why?  That happened hundreds of years ago!  What book will it go into?  I have no clue, but I’m writing it, and getting a lot of satisfaction from it.  I trust that it will fit in somewhere, even if I can’t see how at the moment.

When the characters take control, they become the voice of my subconscious, which is a better storyteller than my conscious mind.  That’s why it’s so exciting.

Weird?  Not really.  Everyone has their own creative process.  Here’s a marvelous video of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) talking about “A new way to think about creativity.” Enjoy.

Pati Nagle





When the Characters Take Control… — 3 Comments

  1. This is soooo true. In fact if the characters do not lend a hand, the entire book is very hard to shift. It is as if you, the author, finds four wheels, an auto body, and an engine, and you assemble all these things into a car and pile the characters into the back seat and start driving to Florida. The book can be written if you do indeed get to Florida, but how much better it is if the characters climb into the front seat and announce that they have always wanted to see the Rocky Mountains, and look, here’s this nice highway heading west! And in the very worst case, the characters sit in the back like dummies, the engine does not turn over, and you have to get out and push.

  2. Oh, yes, this is familiar ground chez moi. You’re right, if the characters or at least some of them, DON’T take charge, nothing is going to come alive.

    That said, there have been times mine have exasperated me with the extra work they gave me, or length they added to the book – in one case putting it way over most publisers’ length limit – or just six month delays that occured while the creative system sorted out whatever new googly it had just been bowled.
    And it’s OK if they climb in the front seat when you just started off for Florida. It’s another matter when someobdy decides the expedition shd. go to Perth (other side of the country) when you’ve started here and already driven almost all the 1500 km to Brisbane…