1. Dave Gregory
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    Dave Gregory Member

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    Newbie mistake?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dave Gregory, Jun 8, 2015.

    Last question for today, then I'll push off and stop filling up the forum:

    I think I'm having trouble keeping my characters in line. I'm discovering that I'm very much a 'let the story tell itself' writer, in that the characters often come out with things I wasn't expecting them to say and events happen that I hadn't scripted or for seen - the good old subconscious getting its tuppence worth in.
    This is fine when stuff happens like an odd little side-plot that's been turning up here and there and is going somewhere, but I've no idea where (I'm just trusting it; it seems quite cool). But on the flip-side, I'm finding that characters are forcing my hand on plot stages that I wasn't ready to reach yet - or worse, are throwing up complications with their actions that I then have to address.
    It's not that I could say 'whoa - we're not going there' and hit backspace, because I'm finding that logically events need to unfold as the characters are dictating (the subconscious again). But this means I'm losing maybe two chapters of character-grounding storyline.
    So is this a good thing? Should I trust the story? Is this what happens to skilled writers? Or is this a classic newbie mistake - and if so is there a recognised method for avoiding it happening and asserting control over the story?
     
  2. Stacy C
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    Stacy C Banned

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    I don't know about a 'newbie mistake', but the mistake I think you're making is thinking that your characters have wills of their own, and power over you, their author. Rationally, you know that isn't true; everything your characters say and do comes from your mind. I can't say that I've ever understood the urge to pretend otherwise. It's your story and they're your characters. Write em.
     
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  3. Dave Gregory
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    Dave Gregory Member

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    Well what's happening is I'll be writing dialogue and the thought goes: well so-and-so would want to question this; then the other person would reply with that; so they'd then bring up this; which leads us onto...... Oh dear - that was supposed to happen somewhere else.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Translation: as you were writing, you had a different idea as to sequence. Happens all the time. Nothing magical about it, it's just your mind at work.
     
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  5. Ussaid
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    Ussaid Member

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    It's the deep-seated demons inside your head taking form through words. Don't allow them to do that! Soon they will force you to write a chapter about your characters sacrificing each other to awaken their lord, Cthulhu! Humanity could be doomed, dude! Burn your papers or smash your PC.
     
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  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay to clarify.
    It sounds like you are saying that your characters seem to desire to do things that go against the plot. Am I right? Like you want them to reach point A but they seem like they naturally want to walk to point B. Is this right?

    Oh I understand this. I often say I feel like I am more recording my characters then writing them. Obviously I know they are in my head and as such I am creating them. So logically I would say this is instincts. I mean you have a picture of the character in your head. In a sense you feel you know them. Then you are writing a scene and it just feels wrong. Like you know this isn't what the character you are writing about would do. Right?

    I see no reason not to listen to that instinct but if you are finding the plot is being derailed because of it. I have two suggestions.

    1. Think about them. Generally most characters and people have a set up circumstance that would push them in a direction. If you need them at point A but they keep going to point B. Ask, what would it take to push them towards point A.

    2. If that fails. If nothing you can imagine would logically push them where the plot needs them. I would change the plot.
     
  7. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Well you'll hear a lot of people say the characters should drive the story and not the other way around, so my guess is you're doing OK.

    If you're putting in lots of side information on-the-fly then you're in the zone. As long as you don't stray too far off the plot or the characters actions change the plot to a point that it doesn't work any more, then you're all good I think.

    However, saying this, it is a bit odd is your characters all of a sudden have weird personality transitions. You should probably just keep going and worry about cutting later on.
     
  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is not the first time I've heard of characters "rebelling" in people's minds. Some people have creative processes where they feel a level of disconnection from the movie they're watching in their head and that's fine (The human brain is a wonderful little contraption). And if you're writing "seat of the pants", that can definitely happen - in fact at some level it should happen. Even people who don't watch characters rebel in their heads should be able to realize that the character they've cast must behave in a certain way to be realistic, and if they try to shove that character into unrealistic behavior, it doesn't work (this means you have to change either the scene or the character). So, if you're writing something, and you come across something more logical or authentic, that's actually good. Just don't go down rabbit trails until you no longer have a story - and if you find yourself down a rabbit trail, you must be willing to go back and cut events, no matter how natural they were in your head.

    But basic answer is that yes, characters rebel. I don't mentally interview or talk to my characters, but they have they're ways of telling me I'm wrong about them.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I think it's a good thing, because I'm in favor of a character-driven story. It may mean that you simply can't be an outline-driven or plot-driven writer, however much you'd like to be.

    Edited to add: It may also mean that you're depending on what I've seen called "idiot plots"--plots that only work if the characters are idiots and fail to see the obvious. But then you have too much integrity in terms of your characters to allow them to be idiots. So maybe part of the fix is to make things more challenging for the characters?
     
  10. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Your characters take the natural course of action considering the situation you've placed them in, creating the illusion they act independantly of your wishes.

    There's all sorts of variables you might be able to change for a different outcome.

    Find an event to interrupt the conversation before it takes an inconvenient turn.

    Introduce a reason for tension between the two characters so they're not so forthcoming with certain information.

    Or give them an external reason to keep something secret.

    Let the characters start the course of action early, but throw in new complications so they have second thoughts or have to think of something else.

    Find a different way to impart the information the conversation was designed to reveal at this time.

    I don't know your story, so none of these suggestions may fit, but they're just to get your brain ticking, to come up with solutions yourself. There's likely something you can do if you want to.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agatha Christie had a character, Ariadne Oliver, who was a mystery writer. I always enjoyed the scene where Mrs. Oliver was trying to figure out how to keep a character from revealing information that he would logically reveal, and her delight when she figures it out. I always assumed that this must surely be a highly-colored version of Agatha Christie's own plotting snags:

    “That's it,” she cried. “A cricket ball! Of course! He sees it from the window... rising up in the air... and it distracts him - and so he never mentions the cockatoo! What a good thing you came, Mark. You've been wonderful.”
    “I don't quite see -”
    “Perhaps not, but I do,” said Mrs Oliver. “It's all rather complicated, and I don't want to waste time explaining. Nice as it's been to see you, what I'd really like you to do now is to go away. At once.”
    (Agatha Christie, The Pale Horse)
     
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