Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ugh. Characters.

        My characters are hopelessly frustrating.

        I started my YA novel in November of 2011, which is probably the thousandth novel I’vestarted, but the only one I’ve finished a draft for. A pretty sweet victory in itself, but I didn’t havetime to celebrate. I was too busy trying to figure out my characters.

        If you think high school is dramatic, try writing a novel.

        My characters would simply not follow their outline. My main character, Kayleigh, wouldwander off and make new friends I had never even planned she meet. How dare she?! Andthen, she would just randomly go fall in love with some guy who definitely wasn’t anything likeher planned love interest.

         For example: In chapter three-ish, Kayleigh is supposed to have an uneventful flight toHawaii, where she will begin another spy mission. Supposed to. Yeah, that’s totally not whathappened. Kayleigh decided to switch seats right before the plane left and sat next to anincredibly good looking guy around her age. She found out his name was Ray, and he was alsotraveling to Honolulu. Oh, well, then guess what she did? She got his phone number.


         Kayleigh did come crying to me a few weeks ago, begging me to take Ray out of thenovel. It turns out he was a total jerk and she found her relationship with him as pointless. (Iwish I could do that. “Hey, God, my relationship with him was totally pointless, can you make itlike I never met him?” Of course, a relationship could never be totally pointless, but its a coolidea.) I contemplated letting her live with her decision, but then said, “Good, finally. Now youcan realize what an amazing guy your real love interest is.”

         And then I realized her “real love interest” was also “unplanned.” He’s a guy who ismisunderstood and misunderstands, working for “the enemy.” When I began writing the story,they weren’t even supposed to end up together. And I had absolutely no idea how I was goingto get them together. But, hey, love seems to flourish when it’s most unwanted (that’s the wholeplot theme in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium-- check it out!). I mean, really-- Romeo and Juliet, Katnissand Peeta, etc. True examples of unlikely happily-ever-afters that happened.

       But yet, when a new love interest pops up on my page that is totally unplanned, I freakout. Even though it is the theme of my novel-- falling for danger. Wanting something dangerous,adventurous, not normal. After almost a year of writing, you’d think I would get the theme.

       I can be really thick sometimes.

       But I think I finally get the picture. Once you start writing, your characters will take you tonew circumstances that you could have never imagined on your own. 


  1. It's actually a very exciting experience, isn't it? I write very thick and detailed outlines before beginning a story, but inevitably, once I start the story the characters surprise me and take everything in new directions. Outlines are rewritten, stories re-started... and it always turns out better that way.
    I think it's so important as writers to be open to the directions God might want to take our stories--even if he often does that through our characters. Madeleine L'Engle compared this acceptance as writers to Mary's acceptance at the Annunciation--we must say "Fiat" with our work so that we can magnify the Lord!