Thursday, June 19, 2008

Character Driven or Not?

Recently I've been pondering just how some authors can manage to make their characters behave. How it is that they corral them in to say and do everything that they want them to do without sacrificing their creativity and in turn creating one-dimensional characters.

The reason I'm thinking about this so deeply is because recently while working on a story my hero pretty much just flipped out on me. Well, not me personally, but my heroine. One minute he was trying to talk himself back into his favorite place in the world (her arms...figuratively speaking), the next he was dropping language like I've never dreamt of putting on paper and no matter how hard I attempted to edit it out by changing it here, tweaking it there, it came out FLAT. The moment I did that, I thought about a favorite author of mine who says that she doesn't understand how some can say they have no idea what's going to happen in their books until it's on the page. She says that she creates her outline and sticks to it no matter what.

Now, I'll be honest with you, I would love to say that I write my outline and stick with it no matter what. But I would be lying to you if I did. I write bullets for each chapter: "X, Y and Z happens in chapter 4." and I start from there. Anything that occurs while getting through those points until the end of the chapter can be as big a surprise to me as to the reader. All I know is that they have to get from point a to b by any means necessary.

So, are my stories character driven or am I a slave to my outline?

I'd hope a bit of both.

I like being as surprised by the characters as anyone else...yet know what's gonna happen next.


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