Characters Control Me More Than I Control Them


It’s amazing how when I plan out a character on my pre-planning Word document, I have them setup a certain way, with certain flaws, and a specific personality. They generally start out the way I have them planned, but they almost always inevitably end up changing wildly and going in some new direction that I had never planned. It generally works out when this does happen, but it always catches me by surprise.

Granted, the character never completely careens off course and ends up turning from protagonist to antagonist or anything of that sort. But they always change in those minor ways that makes them seem much more… real? I’m not even sure if that is the correct word. More lifelike? I suppose both of those words are synonymous. Either way, I more often than not end up liking the change in direction. I feel it adds a certain twist to the story and gives me something new to work with, and something else to inspire me to see how the character will play out. I’m waiting for the time where the character will lead me to their demise, and then I’ll be stuck with the decision of whether I should assist that particular character in surviving, or allow them to fall into their own trap.

Now it’s your turn! Has a character ever run away on you and led you in an entirely new direction? Or are you able to wrangle your characters and keep them just as you planned out? Who is your favorite character that has gone astray?

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15 thoughts on “Characters Control Me More Than I Control Them

  1. I can’t say I’ve been published, but I have had this happen to me when writing for competition or pleasure. I had sympathy evolving from writing the antagonists pov and the more I delved into that, the richer the character became. In my largest manuscript, what I had written as the main antagonist (ergaleio) eventually became victimized by an even larger antagonist that I felt I needed to include to round out the story

  2. Haha, happens all the time…it’s a good thing, it means your characters’ personalities are fully fleshed out and realistic. 🙂 I had planned for two characters to be in love in one of my stories, but they decided they wanted nothing like that at all…so I gave up and made them brother and sister, and the story worked really well after that.

    Best of luck!
    Belle

    Editor, Into the Willows
    An Ezine of Fantasy Poetry
    http://www.intothewillows.wordpress.com

  3. All my characters have developed little foibles that I didn’t plan at the beginning. Probably my most different character from what I planned is my dark/broody male … he’s got a sense of humour I never predicted.
    And I, too, am experiencing that sympathy for my antagonist that makes me really excited about getting him down on paper. He’s still the bad guy – but he has good reason to be.

    • Very cool! I don’t know if I’ve every felt sympathy for my antagonists, mainly because they really are bad people doing bad things. I don’t know if any of their deeds have really been justifiable. But I do love when characters turn out funnier than I planned, haha.

  4. Absolutely! I just had a character turn from a good guy into the main bad guy of my story. I’ve never had that happen before, but it was pretty neat. People never believe me that sometimes the story writes itself, and we’re just there as fingers against the keyboard. If your characters are changing throughout your story, that’s a good thing. Dynamic characters (and people) are much more interesting than static ones.

  5. Hmmm… My two protagonists are growing. In fact, they need to grow. I’m birthing minor and extras to help fill in the blanks. I have a particular character who causes a lot of trouble. I’ve had to cut out some her scenes on her more than once. She really wants to steal the show. But the focus of the story isn’t about all about her. However, I could use her manipulative ways in other stories.

  6. A very valid point! Not only do these changing characters help the current story move along, but it can also impact how we might write a future story, or go back and change a previous work in progress.

  7. For me, it’s always been like this: the character that I plan is always and invariably going to be the elephant’s tail that feels like a rope.

    Characters are *people* – if the people in your life behaved exactly as you expect (and they sometimes do), you’d be disappointed and a little sad. But when they surprise you, and go beyond the lines you draw for them, then they become something more than bit players in a story all about someone else.

    The moment when the character kicks you in the shins and runs away with your perfectly sculpted dialogue and your well-planned plot is when it starts getting REAL. Fun, but fun like a rollercoaster with no safety on.

    Enjoy the ride!

  8. This happens to me constantly – so much that I wonder if I’ve gone horribly wrong when they don’t start leaping about and wandering off into corners I didn’t intend.

    The best character switch I’ve experienced was when my main love interest in a love-driven story that I’d spent something like two years developing came out of the closet. I was typing and one day he turned to the girl he was supposed to be falling for and said, “You do know I’m gay, right?”

    I couldn’t figure out how to salvage that one. I’ll resurrect it one day when I’m feeling less, well, betrayed.

  9. @PartlyPixie – I can empathize with you on feeling betrayed by a character who has turned out to be someone very different from who you thought they were. If you don’t mind an outside observation, there are lots of kinds of love. If it’s a love driven story and the main love interest is gay, there are still plenty of places to go with it. You know what I mean – change *his* love interest, change it into a story about loving someone who loves you back, but not the same way, or a story about loving someone who scares you and you aren’t allowed to love, but do it anyway. (I mean, he may be bi, and she’s just not his type, and he’s trying to let her down easy, or something. People do weird and stupid shit, which means characters do weird and stupid shit.)

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing what comes out of it, if anything ever does. And if it doesn’t, well, I will look forward to seeing the other things you are doing! 🙂

  10. Characters are really … “characters.” A Sunday school student in my book “Behold the State I’m In” turned into a violent stalker in the sequel “Behold the Bond.” I’m not smart enough to have planned that. I think writers may control some sort of alternate dimension where characters live out their lives, and we only are aware when we put pen to paper, or fingertip to keyboard. Go figure.

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