My give and take relationship with my characters

1338872_friendsI’ve been thinking lately–well, yesterday in particular–about my characters and the relationships I have with them.

I’m at the beginning of the end where “The King’s Sons,” the last book in my first trilogy, is concerned. I’m revising/editing my little heart out for the fourth time with the text, and the draft is out to beta readers. Through the trilogy as a whole, I’ve watched my characters grow over twenty-five years (their time) and seven (mine), and while I really can’t wait to get the novel out to the public later this year–perhaps August or September–it’s also a sad thought to say goodbye to the characters I’ve really come to care about.


It’s such an odd relationship, that of author and character. I can say without any hesitation, my characters are like real people to me. I think about them as if they really existed. Maybe that makes me crazy. But if that’s the case, every writer’s crazy. (We probably are, come to think of it, but hey, that’s crazy in a good way.)

My characters are almost like my kids, if I had kids and those kids knew better than I did what they needed. The number of times I have fought with my characters about what I thought they should do, when they knew all along what was right…. I’ve only had success as a writer when I learned, after my first novel, to give up the control and let my characters do their own thing. They must act how they deem they should. Even if it’s a mistake for them, it’s the right move for the novel, and it’s what needs to happen for my stories to be “real.” To strike any chord of being believable.

I always love it when people think I as the writer am in control…. I’m totally not. I guess I could choose to be, but when I’ve done that, I’ve forced my characters to be wooden and stiff; they became puppets doing what I made them instead of the breathing, functioning people directing their own lives that they should be. Like any parent in real life, the time comes when you’ve got to step back and let your darlings be their own people.

“How did you come up with that?”

I’ve been asked before, “How did you think to write that? To end your novel that way? How do you figure out what’s going to happen?” I can’t really take the credit for myself…. All the best moments in my fiction (or at least, my favorites) I didn’t envision happening as they did. Most of them threw me for a loop and really upset me. When it came time to write what I wanted, I’d realize my characters had developed as people to a point that I just couldn’t see them making the choices I’d foreseen. They would do something different, and that something different was always so much more interesting, so much deeper, than what I on my own had planned.

I feel like I say this a lot, but it’s worth repeating: it’s all about the characters. I give them the credit. And I will miss them so much!!!


9 responses to “My give and take relationship with my characters

  1. Its wonderful, & its really great 2 c ur characters like real people, to imagine them acting .. & just put up those scenes in words. I hv not yet tried so much of writing stories but yes while reading.. I just form an image of all characters & as I read I see the images acting.. & I get so engrossed …its like I am watching a video clip.. I wonder how writers present so beautifully & here u have given a clue. 🙂

    • One of my best friends also says she “sees” what she reads. Thanks for your comments! Appreciate your insight. I wish I “saw” words like that…. I get so ingrossed in the action I just have my own fuzzy images, nothing really clear.

  2. It’s awesome to find that other people have the same experiences as I do when it comes to writing. My MCs will often pop into my head and say, “hey, do you have a minute?” and then proceed to tell me what’s up. It sounds crazy to most people. My absolute favourite part of writing is starting out with a vague notion of what I want to accomplish for the day, and then watching the characters fill in all the details and bring up stuff I hadn’t even considered until the words started flowing. 🙂

    • oh my gosh, EXACTLY! some of my favorite moments have been writing a scene and THINKING I knew what would happen. Then one characters says something and I realize, wait, this other person wouldn’t stand for that, and all of a sudden, I have a new direction for the story!

  3. What you describe is the reason I don’t bother outlining. The characters look at it and say, ‘No. I’m going to do something else.”

    • that happened to me to a degree the one time I tried outlining. Even when I don’t outline and I think I’ve reached the end, sometimes I’ll discover the characters aren’t ready to be done yet.

  4. How right you are! I remember typing away and it suddenly dawned on me that the hero of my book was heading off in his own direction. I told him, “You can’t DO that!” He said, “Well, I’m gonna.” I let it play out even though his actions were something heroes in romance novels are never, ever supposed to do. But this character was who he is, and even though I’m the author it wasn’t my place to change him. As a result, the book has been called “unique,” “an unflinchingly honest portrayal,” and “phenomenal.” (That last one made me blush! LOL!) Had I attempted to force this character to behave the way I thought he should and the way I planned for him to, it would have watered the story down to bleh. I’m glad I let him do what he wanted. Let those characters do their thing. 🙂

    • what a fun example!!! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing! I had a blast learning about your experience. It’s so true that the characters know who they are. I’m glad things worked out so well for you and your novel. Sounds fun!!!

  5. Pingback: Creative Writing Tip: DON’T shelter your characters | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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