As I browse the NaNoWriMo forums, I’m struck by the number of posts that ask for help because the poster’s characters won’t do something the author expected them to do (e.g., hook up, become friends, kill one another, run away, continue the plot in the fashion the author wanted). There’s one person who’s responded in roughly the same way to a couple of these posts. In short, the responder has said: they are your characters; they are not real; make them do whatever you need them to do.
On one hand, I completely agree with this concept. Isn’t it a little bit silly, if you step back and look at it, to think of figments of our imaginations behaving badly (assuming, that is, that we didn’t intend for them to behave badly)? It’s a bit like monkey mind run amok.
On the other hand, I have experienced this situation for myself. The chemistry wasn’t there in the scene in which I saw my characters moving in for a kiss. I visualized this scene in my story, and when I came up to it, the characters just didn’t… <shove> want.. <push>… to move <smack> in the direction I wanted them to.
It’s a strange situation. If I were to make them do what I wanted them to do, it’s not so much their lack of chemistry, but my perception of their lack of chemistry that would wreck that scene. Yes, it’s all up to me, but the problem is that it’s all up to me.
It’s too comfortable to think of this as a problem, though, when in fact, it could open up into something much more interesting. This
problem situation has become the springboard for a much richer and whole storyline in my own work. As I’ve been writing this month, I had a vague idea of where it was going – it was something of a post-apocalyptic fantasy involving a girl transported from our here and now – but I found myself with too many questions. I tried to put my characters in a certain story arc, and it just wasn’t as big a problem for them as I’d thought it would be. Seeing as how this is NaNoWriMo, during which questions, editing, navel-gazing, or other nonsense is not allowed (in my rulebook, anyway), I pressed onward. The story got to this point and sort of fell on its face with nowhere to go.
I took a little time this evening and discussed my story holes with my husband. He gave me a set of “what if”s that have the power to transform the entire shape, tone, and possibly even genre of my story (but luckily, not the basic concept – see related content below!). I’m a little awestruck, a little scared, and little overwhelmed, but I’m choosing to see those as preferable to feeling done.
Do any of you have a similar situation? The my-characters-won’t-do-what-I-envisioned “problem”? Has it led to something bigger? Do you think it has made you look at your characters or storyline(s) in a different light?
- NaNoWriMo Day 14: Discovering New Characters Along the Way (thesisterseternal.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo Update! (beforeduringandafterblog.com)
- Encouragement to not change your NaNoWriMo story concept mid-month (todaysauthor.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo: Half-Way Through (krgreen.co.uk)
- #NaNoWriMo: Outlining (firstnightdesign.wordpress.com)