Tag Archives: characters

My Characters Are Weird

Are you in control of your story, or is it in control of you? Do you tell your characters what to do, or do they just narrate their own stories?

With me, it is a little bit of both. I generally tell the story but, sometimes, the characters don’t like what I am writing and scream at me to change it. I can drag them kicking and screaming into what I want them to do, or I can just follow their lead. My characters have been known to have minds of their own.

What? Those voices in my head aren’t real? You want to send the guys in white coats after me? You think I’m nuts? You mean everyone doesn’t hear those voices?

Go ahead and send those guys with the looney house over. I have some questions for them.  I think one of my characters might be schizophrenic. Or is that me? No. I’m not schizophrenic. It must be them.

The characters with mental problems are fun to write and hard at the same time. They don’t act the way most of society does but, at the same time, I have to make them believable. One of my side characters is looney tunes. I keep changing her, trying to make her fit into one category better. Right now, she is just a plain old wacko.

Even the main characters need to have quirks, or they won’t be believable. Readers are only willing to suspend their disbelief so far. Once that limit has been reached, you have lost that reader forever. Cardboard characters don’t give them much reason to do so.

Are your characters talking to you? Are you listening to them? Are you incorporating their ideas into your story? The rough draft is the perfect place to do that. You can take it out later, if it doesn’t work.

Don’t get so stubborn with your story that you don’t let it take a few twists and turns. Those may be just what the doctor ordered. If they aren’t, you may need another doctor.

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Grab an Accountability Partner

My motivation is gone. I don’t feel like doing anything. I need a kick in the rear.

Do you ever feel the same way? Find yourself an accountability partner, or more than one. My cousin dropped me a note asking me to do something to keep her from going all off track on her editing. I offered her a kick in the butt. That was all she needed.

Don’t have someone that will be your accountability partner? Does no one in your cabin hold you accountable? Go to the forums. You are bound to find an accountability partner there, if you really want one. Otherwise, just post in the forums and you will have a lot of people holding you accountable. You will also have a lot of encouragement.

The point is, you don’t have to do this all alone. Oh, the actual writing you have to do alone. But a good support system will work wonders. That is one thing cabins are for. Unfortunately, they don’t always work.

In my cabin, we all know each other, so we feel comfortable asking for a good kick in the rear. And we feel comfortable giving it. We are equally comfortable giving heaps of praise. Often, this is what is needed the most. Sometimes, what is needed is a combination of both.

Are you crying over your characters? Laughing when they make fools of themselves? Cheering them toward the finish line? You are doing it right. You have become connected with the story. You are a writer.

If you haven’t felt this way yet, you will. Just give yourself permission to feel. Your characters will come alive for you, if you let them. They may begin to feel more real than the people around you.

Feel free to give your characters a kick in the rear, if they need it. Hold them accountable to you. They belong to you. You don’t belong to them. You are in charge, even if they try to convince you that you aren’t. The final say is yours. Make sure you hold on to that.

So, grab that accountability partner and take that story by the horns. Or pen. Or computer. Or typewriter. Or whatever. Just grab it and go. There is no time like the present.

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The Agony of Revision

Tearing apart your work is never easy. It is like tearing yourself apart. Every word ripped from the story can feel like it is being ripped out of your heart. Yes. I know it’s hard. I know it’s tedious. I also know it has to be done. But my work will never be worth sharing if I don’t.

When I printed my book out this month, my first thought was “I wrote all that?” My second thought was “I have to revise all that?” I think revising and editing can be even harder than getting something on paper the first time. I mean, what if it was better before I started fooling with it?

If you are afraid you will need something, or just can’t bear to let it go, cut and save it in another document. You can visit it from time to time, until you are ready to let it go, or find a place it wants to live. And live is what your work does. It has a life of it’s own. You may be the creator, but the work often dictates where it wants to go.

My first draft of my novel didn’t have a subplot that worked. I had to come up with another one. I came up with a subplot I liked, which involved introducing a new character that wasn’t in the original draft. I was trying to come up with a name for him.

Sam. No. John. No. Jake. No. Doug. No. Peter. No. William. No. Doug. No. I already said that didn’t go with his last name. I couldn’t change that because he was the brother of my main character. I tried again. Larry. No. Tim. No. Doug. I said no! Pat. No. Joe. No. Roy. No. Doug. Okay. Okay. I get it. Your name is Doug. Geez, you don’t have to be so insistent.

That is the kind of thing I am talking about when I say the work dictates. The characters tell you if they are acting out of character. They can tell you what they want to do. They may even name themselves. Go with it. They won’t let you ignore them anyway.

Does it sound like I am insane? I don’t know anyone in this world that is completely sane. Writers, even less. It’s part of the makeup required to succeed as a writer. After all, what sane person thinks they can do it? It’s too much of a long shot. Do something that pays the bills.

That’s why most writers have another job. They have to pay the bills. Very few make it to the point they can make a living by writing. For every J. K. Rowling, you will find a million more writers who could only dream of her success. Don’t aspire to be J. K. Rowling. Aspire to be you. If you don’t do it, who else will?

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