Let the Characters Do the Writing

Have you ever heard the saying “Give the horse his head?”.  If you haven’t, I just want to be very clear about one thing:  I am not suggesting you rip off a horse’s head and feed it to him (or her… whatever).  No, that might be something that you may (or may not) see in one of Aaron’s scene examples, but that’s another story.

What it really means (to a rider anyway) is to let the horse run as hard and as fast as it wants (and let it pick its own path too).  OK, that’s kind of interesting, but so what?  What the heck is your point?

My point is, sometimes, you have to give your characters the freedom to do things their own way.  Huh?  They’re just made up people, not real and certainly not capable of sentient thought.  Has the guy finally flipped his wig?  Not at all, the hair (what there is left of it) is all mine.

Let me back up a moment to demonstrate what I mean.  With my current book, I had the entire story plotted from beginning to end before I ever (well almost ever) put fingers to keyboard to actually start writing.

I had a very clear idea of who my characters were, how they did things and why.  Then, I began to write.  For the first while, everything went fine.  The plot elements worked their way into the story, the characters interacted with one another.  In other words, everything was great.

Then something happened.  My characters started to take over.  They began to impose themselves upon my writing.  I had two choices:  force them back into their places or let them go and do their own thing.

So I did the natural thing:  I bent them to my will.  I mean, I am the guy doing the writing, aren’t I?  They should do what I tell them to.  In a word, NO (maybe even HELL NO!)!

You see, the characters coming to life was a good thing, maybe even a great thing.  They had begun to have a life within the story and it was now real people driving the action within the writing, not the cardboard cutouts I’d started with.

When I realized that, I quickly scuttled back to where I had tried to break their spirit, begged their forgiveness and began to let them lead me.  I still tried to get them to work within the framework of the plot, but suddenly, little changes began to show up that I had never planned for.  Little changes that made the story more interesting.

Decisions that the characters made in a place began to have real consequences.  I had to scramble a few times to keep the storyline intact, but ultimately, I think the writing, and the characters, became stronger and more compelling than I ever could have done on my own.

So, strive to get your characters to do some of the work.  Give them their head, so to speak.  You too will find the writing (and interaction with your characters) more interesting and more enjoyable just like I did.

Race on.



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