1. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    Fiction Writers: Are you a "fly on the wall" or a "dictator"?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Drusilla, Sep 23, 2012.

    Are you the "fly on the wall" or the "dictator", or something in between? Do you let your characters and story live their own life or do you interfere? When/how do you interfere? Do you enforce your personal views/beliefs onto the story/characters? Even when your characters are telling you "DAMN NO!"? Do you let your characters fall in love with whomever they want, even if you have put them up with someone else? Let's say your plan was to have Lisa fall in love with Greg, but you discover that Lisa and Tim have a better chemistry/relationship potential? What do you do then?

    How do you control/not control your characters?
     
  2. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I am the file on the wall type of writer. In my first person stories, I pretend I am the main character, even if the character is a girl wanting to have sex with guys. I think like the character, feel like the character, and talk like the character.

    In third person writing, I still think about what my characters will do after I develop them in my notes. If I know them well, I never control them. They will do how I believe they will react on their own. I let them do whatever the hell they want.
     
  3. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Hi, Dru!

    I'm one who writes off a stream of consciousness with my MC, so everything when it's in her POV is straight from her. She tells me her first person thoughts on everything and I just change it to third person. There's probably anything from 1-2 lines per paragraph that's her person thoughts the end up in each paragraph. I, personally, don't do much "narrating" in the traditional sense since she drives the story. Now, when other character POV's come around, the same things happens there.
     
  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    A fly on the wall most of the time. Although I do have to step in sometimes if all of my characters try to die. :p
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's a rather schizoid question. Your characters have no volition of their own. Every action, every decision your character makes is really you making that decision. If your character does something unexpected, it is still because you decided the character would respond that way in the conditions you established.

    For my part, I let the character make the choice that feels natural to me based on the way I have constructed that character and the conditions I have placed her or him in. Usually, I am content to let the story turn from the planned path when this happens, but sometimes I need to alter the conditions in order to return the story to the desired path. It all depends on whether I feel the story can still reach the outcome I intend it to reach.

    But I have no illusions about my characters, I never forget they are a construct with no existence other than what I shape for them on a continuous basis.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm pretty much the fly on the wall who makes an occasional buzz around the head of characters who are getting lazy.
     
  7. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    Fly on the wall and conductor (dictator's a little strong).

    At the beginning of my novel, I was more a fly on the wall, and at times I felt as if I was following my characters around with a camera. I knew the direction the story would take, but as each situation arose, they never ceased to surprise me with the choices they made, and about halfway through the story, I discovered that one of my characters had been pulling the wool over my eyes as to his real motives.

    Now as I pull the various threads together for the final climax, I am firmly in control, and the writing at this stage is a much slower process. I know where it needs to go, I know my characters, and I know how I need to guide them in for the final landing. Maybe "air traffic controller" is a better metaphor than conductor at this point.

    They still surprise from time to time, though.
     
  8. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    I know very well that my characters are my creations and they have no will of their own, but I sometimes feel that the choices I make for them are wrong and the characters are leading me in another direction, although I am actually leading them in another direction.
     
  9. Geri
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    Geri Member

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    Couldn't agree more !!!!
     
  10. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    Obviously, as storytellers we are in the business of imagining. If your characters seem to develop minds of their own, that's a good thing. I for one do not view your question as schizoid at all--it makes perfect sense to me, and it speaks to an ability to infuse your characters with unique ways of thinking and interacting with their world. If they seem to have wills of their own, even if in the simplistic literal sense we know that they do not, it pays to listen to them. It creates challenges for you as a writer in moving the story in a specific direction, and it may mean more work for you (or an unexpected direction for your story), but if they are real enough to you that they resist going in directions where they feel they don't belong, then it is quite possible that the reader won't feel right about taking them in those directions, either.
     
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  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    To add to what Cog said, when characters appear to have minds of their own, it's really you discovering new possibilities for them as you develop your story, beyond what you had originally conceived. And that's only natural. I can (and have done!) spend hours, or even a couple of days, going over in my mind what a particular scene should look like, but it always changes when I get it down on paper. Just part of the writing process.
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Characters, while created in your own mind, do become real after a certain amount of time. It doesn't make one schizophrenic to feel that way either. So, no, I don't find feeling they're real to be a bad thing. How can writers talk about how a character is a "friend" if they aren't real in some sense? Writers, to be successful, have great imaginations, and as such, things can become vivid enough to feel real-even if you create them.
     
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  13. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    im just a brick in the wall

    always wanted to say that.

    i think you make the characters and the situations. if they are not believable then something has to change.
     
  14. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    If don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat you meat?-Pink Floyd "Another Brick in The Wall"

    Kind of felt like saying it too :p


    :D
     
  15. Sacrificed13
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    Sacrificed13 New Member

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    I think that I'm more of a fly on the wall. I like to let my characters control themselves because I feel that I enjoy telling the story more that way. I like being an observer.
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a puppet master. I allow my characters free will, as long as the plot moves where I want.

    Mua ha ha ha ha...
     
  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've never understood what is this obsession and apparent paradox surrounding characters? They're your creation. They're FICTIONAL. They do whatever you want within the parameters that you've given them, and when they react "unexpectedly" or turn the plot away from what you intended it to be, it's usually just because we're realising logical flaws within their behaviour based on what we've given them and thus feel inclined to steer them or "let them" go the way you've structured them rather than act irrationally.

    You're the creator. So create. Stop seeing yourself as some helpless puppet pulled by fictional beings.

    Cog said it best, I think.
     
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  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    To answer your original question, Lisa & Tim will have a much better story that will be much more believable, natural, interesting, and realistic than will Lisa & Greg. I think it is almost always better to go where your characters are leading you, rather than forcing your pre-determined thought for them. Ever hear the criticism, "This seems forced. I didn't quite believe it." If your characters want one thing and you make them do something else, you might get that feedback.
     
  19. Michelle7
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    Michelle7 Member

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    Actually my characters sometimes go all over the place. I enjoy watching them i feel thats how i know whats going to happen in the story, but there are times they completely divurge from the story and i feel like saying "Ok save it for another story guys." But, I have a very vivid imagination and also very new at this so it could just be something i have yet to work through.
     
  20. DannyA
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    DannyA Member

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    ^ Although I normally have a story line and plot line to keep my characters in check, sometimes they still go off at a tangent. Occasionally I'll continue and bring them back 'on track' and other times I'll scrap what I've written (although I'd normally save the dialogue or scenario to use either later or in something else) and rewrite from the moment it started to diverge.

    I have to admit though, that since I've become more methodical in draughting out how the story line and plot line advance in each chapter, my characters tend not to stray as often as they used to.
     
  21. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    I'm like the dictator on the wall.
     
  22. Auren
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    Auren New Member

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    I often find myself acting as the little voice in the back of my characters mind; suggesting, hinting, gently pulling the strings.

    I remember writing a Batman: the Animated Series Joker fan-fiction with a friend of mine. It was purely brain-crack and will never see the light of day; but one scene sticks in my mind to this day. It was a Christmas party for all the villains hosted by the Penguin. It was probably the most fun I'd ever had writing anything. I wrote the whole scenario out in one -long- night and -seemingly by themselves- the villains organized into subgroups and cliques. It was fascinating to see how they interacted in their "off time" as well as how my OC interacted with them, being very much an outsider.

    It occurred to me that what made the characters seem to have a mind of their own, was a firm grasp on what made them tick; coupled with the spontaneous, almost subconscious decisions my sleep deprived brain was making for me before I even had time to think. It seemed to write itself, I was merely there to nudge things in the right direction and watch the fun unfold.

    After that I made a conscious effort to try and let my other characters from other stories do that. I found that, by writing the first thing to pop in my head; the dialogue and actions seemed much more natural and genuine. I personally think that if my characters don't seem to have a life of their own, then I need to go back and develop them more. The moment my characters "come alive" gives me a sense of pride in the development work I did before writing the actual story.

    I often find myself thinking -as if asking the characters themselves- "is that really a good idea?" or "by doing (action) you're compromising your morals/beliefs/integrity" and seeing how they react to my almost "Jiminy Cricket" like guidance. In my stories I'm both the little angel and the little devil on their shoulders, arguing both sides of an action and seeing which way the character goes based on my nudging.
     

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