I just came from yet another writer’s workshop where several of the authors kept insisting how their characters have ‘told them’ how the story should go, or have ‘refused’ to do what the author had intended for them to do. A little picture appeared in my head of the computer screen with a little stick figure, shaking its little fist at the author and stomping its triangle foot.
I was like, “wow.” How deluded is that? I’m not disputing that sometimes you can be so deeply into a character that you are channeling them. Or that a character will develop and you will have to alter the path he/she takes due to that development, or that a character has grown so much that perhaps he/she has evolved so he/she doesn’t fit his role in the story anymore. I myself have taken an antagonist and changed him to the protagonist just because the character was just so lovable.
Ever evolving characters are crucial in a story. Keeping the characters suitable for a story is even more so, but to say that the characters are telling YOU, the author, how to write your story is just plain fantastical. Does the author NOT know what is going on in their own story so they create this device as an excuse not to progress on the story? Is this a way to make the writer ‘appear’ more ‘creative’ or ‘authentic?’ Or is it just plain laziness? “My characters won’t do what I tell them to do, so I can’t write anymore.” “I’m waiting for my character to tell me what happens next.”
Does Stephen King know about this phenomenon? It sounds like a horror story to me.
Let’s make this clear: you created the characters, you created their world and you came up with the plot. If something goes haywire, it’s up to the author to fix it. Blaming it on the characters is lame.
Worse is when the book is complete and they are still saying that their characters controlled the story. Hello? Don’t you want any credit for the monumental task of writing a 90 thousand word (or more) story?
I’m sorry, but if one of my books hits the NY Times best-seller list, I’m not telling Leno that my characters wrote the story. That’s all me, baby. My characters can’t take it to the bank.
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am.