1. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    "Something's happening..." (Learning from Characters)

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by DaveOlden, Feb 10, 2015.

    You remember the moment in ET. Loose objects begin to shiver and tremble on the table. Little Gertie (Drew Barrymore), not a little concerned, says, "Something's hap-pening..."

    This is a little different, no objects floating around here, nothing's moving, but .... there's something like a shadow that I don't understand... an Unknown drifting in like a cool draught. If Gertie were here with us now, she'd say exactly the same thing, in exactly the same way.

    Writers of fiction, you've had it happen, too.

    Characters gain a life of their own!

    And are not writers, to a degree, control freaks? You can certainly say that about me. I'm the Creator, they're the characters. I'm in charge here, this is my story, and this is what's going to happen. Do they understand?

    For the first example, you need to know I'm not a parent. I don't spend much time with children. You need to know this.

    The other day, I created a new character, to ride along with my other adult characters. An eight year old kid.

    One of the adults was teaching the girl, as adults often do. The child interrupted with an innocent question. When he tried to correct her, to explain, he gradually realized that he couldn't. She wasn't entirely wrong.
    An 'Out of the mouths of babes' kinda moment.

    I was startled. That didn't come from me, it came from the kid!

    Next example is from earlier this afternoon, during my walk to Starbucks. My main character asserts herself. (Since I walking, she didn't wait to be written).

    Look, you're the writer, I know, I get that. I also get that you see me as fiction, which is a little depressing to be honest, but I can roll with that. That's not the important part here.

    I don't want you to take this personally, but... how do I put this... I know me a lot better than you do. A lot more!


    But to --

    -- Hold that thought! I'm not finished.

    You need choose to trust me. It's a respect thing, too. But I'm saying that if you trust, I can show you a whole new world.
    She caught herself. Oh god that sounds so cheesy-Disney. Anyway, you know what I mean. Those little moments that surprised you? Those little things we've said or done -- you are so lucky you got those moments at all, you're so controlling!

    Force a story by will, try to micromanage us, it's all lost, because you will have choked us dead.

    You are always our Writer. Give us attention, listen and follow me and the other characters, trust us, and I promise you, it will be Joy of Discovery!


    It was like the Creation Story, but now Eve, putting her foot down, had given God new ground rules.

    I'm going to have to process this.
     
  2. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since the character is a creation of your mind, you are learning from yourself.
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've got no understanding of this way of thinking about characters. I mean, of course new aspects of characterization occur to you as you go, and of course you sometimes realize things as you write, but to have a character "take over"? To think of them as independent of your brain?

    I've written about twenty books, and it's never happened to me. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen to other people, but it certainly isn't a requisite event in the development of a writer.
     
  4. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    The capacity of any fictional character to surprise, fascinates me -- especially because I know these characters are inventions of my mind.

    There was a perceivable quality of independence. And an insistance that I trust. That included trust that they knew more about their world, than I did.

    This gave me pause, and was new, and called for a shift in perspective. So I wrote about it.

    But because it's an aspect of the creative process, I can't (nor shouldn't) talk about it in the body of my story. So the only people I could think to talk about it with, are other fiction writers.

    Another simile occurred to me. It's like a Stage Play, and I'm the Playwright and Director, and during rehearsal one day, an actor takes me aside. "You're the Director, and I respect that, but we're actors, we know our jobs, and please, you have to trust us."

    A little like that, but they're part of the creating, too. I can't see them as puppets, ever again.

    And yeah, this is my growing Process. I know it'll be different for others.
     
  5. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    Yes! But even knowing that, I'm still amazed by it all.

    "Sometimes, I surprise even myself!" - Han Solo
     
  6. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is one of the things I love about wilting. That you don't just sit down and write a story, but that the story becomes a breathing, living thing itself. That both story and characters get minds of their own and help develop the world within which they exist and shape the conflict they face.
     
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  7. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    I think you are surprising yourself in this case. Your subconscious makes a leap and your vivid imagination is trying to free itself from constraints of your logic. :)
     
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  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of writers have this - I certainly do. My characters exist within the plot, and because I know the plot they don't "rebel" on me the way some writers say their characters do, but I do in a sense feel I get to know them and on more than one occasion I've had one of them break out of the little box I created for them.

    Actually, of all people, my main character who's been in my head for 10 years has rebelled on me the last few days on a minor plot point. I've been doing my best to not let her put the puzzle of the plot together in her own head - I needed to hide it from her so that she can get smacked by it later (and because her best friend is the one who is supposed to see the big picture, not her.)

    But no. At the end of the day she reminded me that she is, in fact, a big-time investigative TV journalist, and that one does not reach such a position without a certain degree of intuition about when something around her is going rotten. So, that element of the plan is now gone and I've decided to run with the fact that she's an excellent judge of character and very good at picking up the subtle cues in how people talk - she's been doing this on me for some time subconsciously, but I never flat out explained it or acknowledged that her having this ability would probably affect my plot in ways I didn't particularly like.

    So, I finally gave up this week and let her be smart and perceptive, and jumped into her head multiple times while she's analyzing people she's just met. It makes her a bit wiser to the overall situation than I prefer but it also makes her feel more real on the page because I'm just letting her be herself as I see her, not consciously shaving of the pieces I don't want,
     
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  9. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    It's less of a take-over, but more of a naturalness, if one would consider it from a logical viewpoint. Like their personalities are so well imprinted in your mind that sometimes what you think they'll do and what you put to the paper when you get down to it is different.

    That said, my characters are like my children. My poor, tortured, older-than-me children.

    To add some credence to this idea of the character "taking over," I began to develop a cutesy stock unrequited love situation, before realizing what was happening was an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship that only came to light when I let them interact in my head.
     
  10. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    My main character moved my car keys this morning, it took me ten bloody minutes to find them.
     
  11. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    Ha, my main character just sat on my couch angsting with his fucking awesome wings unfolded. Now my side character, she parked her giant airship in the side of my house. Goddamnit.
     
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  12. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    I think if your characters do talk to you in this fashion, and you are convinced their voice is not of your own creativity, you should probably see someone about it.
     
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  13. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    Well, there is the Tulpa, an entity summoned that becomes a separate personality in your brain. (Granted, it's mostly used for a brony to get an imaginary friend...)
     
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  14. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    Just last week, I received an email from a well known novelist (over 120 published works, fiction and non-fiction), who advised me, in that email, that I "get to know my characters, everything about them" and "when you know them well enough they can write the story for you."

    A moment came that I got to know characters off the page (so much of writing happens when we're walking and thinking, doesn't it). So I wrote about it (the OP).

    I didn't say "not of my creativity"! One of the things that fascinates me: a character I did imagine, can have an independent spirit and make decisions and respond separately from my intentions. Authors have talked about this for as long as there've been writers of fiction. You think they're making this up?

    So much to learn from that (trust is a great thing to be asked for, and that characters know more than we consciously recognize makes it discovery not just dry invention!), and you say "see someone about it?" like "seek help"?

    No, I should write fiction.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
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  15. DaveOlden
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    This aspect of the process -- creating characters with independent life -- makes writing fiction tremendously rewarding, and shouldn't be taken for granted.

    If characters do or say something we didn't expect, what's wrong with listening to what they have to say, and learning from it?

    Even if it's us as writers they are talking to.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  16. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    You know, I was trying to end with a nice, sappy reconciliation (and eventually hooking up) between my two main characters, after a lot of heartbreak between the two. They ended up defying me and not just refusing to hook up, one of them left. Like never wants to ever meet again left. It was weird and kinda cool, but it turned my ending bittersweet.

    ...or it will, when I manage to get past the first chapter.
     
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  17. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    I was going to kill a character off, but another character intervened at the last moment. This did mean that another character died in her place though.

    Not what I planned to begin with, but I'm sticking with it.
     
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  18. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Regarding characters doing unexpected things - tonight my fragile, girly-girl character who always wears pink went and enlisted in the Marines. Not how I expected her to respond to pressure....guess that plotline's going to need a facelift...luckily that's so far out that I'm not going to need to write it for a while.
     
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  19. Urban Profanity
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    Urban Profanity Member

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    I get this a lot too. I think it means there's some disconnect between your conscious self and the subconscious, creative seed bed. It does literally feel like they are taking the reins. I do quite a bit of stream of consciousness rambling as part of my process, and this seems to be a great way of divining the essence of these characters.

    Personally, I love that realness about them. It makes the process so much more beautiful for me to think that things are fluid. I believe the end result of theses things will be a more truthful story than if I were to rigidly plan and resist all these raucous forces, however frustrating and impulsive they may seem.
     
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  20. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    An actor is NOT a creation of your brain, no matter whether you're the Playwright, Director, Producer, Financier and the President all rolled into one.

    An actor will take the script and breathe life into it. A good actor will go further. Take Pirates of the Caribbean and the way that Johnny Depp took over the character of Jack Sparrow.
     
  21. DaveOlden
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    Of COURSE actors are not creations of my brain!

    I needed to convey how that moment felt to me. And it felt like: when someone you are working with asks you to trust them to do their jobs! I remembered Directors and Actors (and Directors definitely need to trust their actors!), so I used that memory as a simile!

    Similes, like metaphors, are only examples.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  22. Yume No Okami
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    Don't feed the flame (war).
     
  23. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    You're right, I was getting defensive. (breathes, and another deep breath...)
     

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