Sometimes characters just don’t listen. They’re a bit annoying like that. You have them on track in their story. You know everything that is going to happen to them. And suddenly they decide that they don’t want to go that way. They want to take a sharp left and veer off onto a totally separate adventure. An adventure you did not approve of. Why do they always seem to do this? After all, the writer creates the character, right? We should have full control over what they do!
Well, it doesn’t quite work like that. After a certain amount of writing, characters develop a distinct personality of their own. They seem to come to life as you write them. Which is awesome on one hand… until they start getting rebellious.
So when is it right to listen to our characters and deviate from the original plan?
Well it all depends. Sometimes, the characters are wrong. Their deviation is just a flight of fancy that has nothing to do with the real story. Its there for fun, but its not what needs to happen. In that case, right a few extra scenes outside of the manuscript to get their rebellion our of your system. Then they can get back to work.
But sometimes… the character is right. This happens to me most often with romantic sub plots. My characters tend to know their love lives better than I do, and more than once, my characters have decided they don’t want to end up with their original love interest. It happened in the first novel I wrote. It happened in the novel I wrote with my friend, which I’ve talked about in previous posts. In those cases, my characters were right. Switching the pairing helped a lot with character development and the plot of the story. And it meant I could stop arguing with my characters for a bit.
Most recently I had a near incident of a non-canon ship trying to set sail in the current book I’m writing. In this case, I put my foot down. Because, by god, I do not want to do a love triangle. They are so hard to pull off, I wouldn’t even be able to do it. So how did I solve the situation? I gave one of the rebellious characters a new love interest to pull him away from my canon ship. And you know what? I’m super excited about the new character. He’s kind of a bad ass and I can’t wait to use him.
The point is, even if you don’t indulge your characters, its good to listen to them. It might lead you to unexpected places that make your story even better. Characters might be rebellious, but as long as you pay attention, you can control them. Because in the end, the decision is yours… mostly.