22 February, 2009

Who Are These People and What Do They Want From Me?

A lot of writers walk around thinking they're insane. After all, we hear voices and sometimes we talk back. We learn to love and appreciate the voices. In some cases we think of ways we can torment them and in others we do everything we can to get them out of jams. In a way, we are like their Gods and Godesses, answering their prayers, meddling in their affairs. We have control over the outcome of their stories, or do we?

It's easy to play the role of divinity in our characters lives, but is that really our purpose? Or are we there to give them an outlet? As often as I would like to think I had control over my characters and what was supposed to happen in their lives, they tend to fight every step of the way when they disagree. Is this because they are art imitating life, or perhaps it's even deeper than that. Maybe we are conduits somehow, tuned into the universe.

It sounds wacky, I know, but sometimes the people in my head seem so real that it frustrates me to no end when they take on a life of their own. I remember a story I was writing years ago in which a teenage character with a mind of her own wanted to kiss her best male friend during summer break. She already had a boyfriend whom she loved very dearly, but the moment and the connection between her and her friend made her react as though she might die if she didn't do exactly what her impulses dictated. I actually felt myself being pulled in that direction, started writing out her wish and then stopped. That was NOT what the story was all about. In fact, there were several stories that followed, stories that had already been written, so I knew for a fact that there was no secret kiss between them and there never would be. But she was adamant. She fought me every step out of that scene and actually refused to "speak" to me for a full day.

There is definitely a strange connection between a writer and her characters. I used to think of myself as their creator, but now I'm not so sure. They certainly come into being with their own agenda, their own names. I've "tried" to name characters, but they always name themselves, and if the name I've chosen at first is wrong, they quickly correct me, lest I not go on writing with any luck at all.

So I ask you, what kind of relationship do you have with your characters? Do they speak to you? Do you hear their voices in your head? When you go against their wants, do they let you know? What kind of role do you see yourself as in their lives? Are you simply the bard spinning their story, or are you the great creator to whom they cling and pray?


Nicole Ireland said...

You and I have talked about this before and as you know, my characters love to have it out with me. When I want to sleep, they talk to me. When I want them to answer, they ignore me. They act like my children and refuse to behave. They are ornery, but loving. Stubborn, but giving. They are so many things.

You know I've had issues with naming characters and keeping them in check. I no longer try to. I go where they lead.

Anny Cook said...

Oh mine are all quite feisty. They decide when they want to talk, what they want to talk about, and where they want to go. Me? I just write it down.

AravisGirl said...

I tend to argue with my characters. There was one that insisted she was going to die at the end of the book, while I wanted her to live. So I decided I was going to kill her annoying sister, but she endeared herself to me and enticed me with a sequel. So i decided I was going to kill the shady PI, who I didn't like at all. Then he made both me and my protagonist fall in love with him. However, I had sworn on Twitter that I would kill him, so I did. And then I cried.

But that's just one example. I get so tired of them and their lives and their stupid behavior, I nearly force them to be sensible. Or stop writing the story until I feel like dealing with their emotional turmoil again.