Monday, December 5, 2011

Characters on Strike?!

I was brainstorming the current section of my work in progress the other day when a horrifying thought occurred to me - what if all the characters currently being written went on strike? I don't mean writer's block, I mean the utter refusal of your characters to do what you ask them to.

Think about it. It's not impossible.

Look at what we put these people though. We hurt them, kill them, kill the people they love, torture them in incredibly imaginative ways, give them blissful happiness only to strip it all away in one great traumatic moment that leaves them nothing but a shriveled husk on the inside that we then expect them to find a way out of - why on earth do they put up with it? What if one day they didn't?

What if one morning, you go to open for your manuscript and instead of sending your hero into battle, or your heroine into the dragon's cave they're siting around in a nice warm conflict-free inn reading a book and drinking tea? You tell them: "All right, suit up. It's time to get going." And they look at you, shrug and say, "You do it. I'm busy."

Novels wouldn't get finished! They would all stop abruptly in an anticlimactic, safe and drama-less disaster where the plot is never resolved, no lessons are learned, no villain slain...and there would be nothing you could do about it.

It's dangerous to take characters for granted. They put a lot of trust in us that no matter how much pain we bring to them, they will always get a satisfying ending, whether it's a glorious or brilliantly gruesome death, or love, a family, and a peaceful rest-of-life. They cooperate with us because they know as well as we do that they are needed. That they have a role in protecting the world, or someone they care about.

This morning I present a toast of my morning tea to thank the many, many, many people wandering around in my head for always being there when I need them, and for taking me on great journeys I had never outlined or anticipated, and for warning me when I'm about to do something stupid. Cheers! (and don't leave me)


  1. OMG, I'm torn between laughing and being afraid. Very afraid. Eek. I certainly hope my characters don't hear this sort of talk and grab up their pickets signs, or meet yours the inn! LOL Great post. We do put our characters through a lot. Although, sometimes, they put us through anguish as well - like when they take off on their own and do something totally unexpected.

  2. Hi Krista,

    I really enjoyed the post, it was fun. You are right, a good character will take on a life of their own, and may even have an independent streak.

    I, however, do not feel afraid... Why? I hold all the pointy sticks! I control their DNA; which of their loved ones get kidnapped; I control whether or not they have a home to go back to; I know their breaking points, and where to apply the pressure... I also know the things that make then feel all safe and snuggley.

    I short, if you really get to know your characters, they can surprise you with *how* they go about doing something you want them to do, and may even do something you never imagined, but, eventually they *will* go where I want them to, and do what I want, because they know it's really NOT worth hacking me off! ;-)

  3. Note to self: TJ's a character tyrant :| You have been warned.