When the Characters Take Over the Ship

Mutiny? Well, not really. In fact, I like it. When the characters I’m writing overwhelm me and take control that means that I’ve fleshed them out on paper as richly as they appear in my mind. They’re real and have their own ideas about where their destinies should take them.

Of course, that can blow my story completely off course and I have to stop and take stock of where we’re really going, instead of where I’d planned. Ultimately I usually find out that they were right. As well as I know my characters, sometimes, no often, they surprise me.

As a pantser I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore when it happens. That left turn that the story takes (or to port if I keep up the analogy) keeps it fresh for me. After the seventy-fifth reading of a scene even my eyes can glaze over. To surprise my reader and not go where it’s expected delights me and if the characters join in to help – there’s nothing better.

Another joy is when a “minor” character rises up on his or her toes, frantically waving their arms and saying, “Hey! Write more about me!” Now you’re heading into sequel territory and even more fleshing out of the story.

Hey, I’m a writer. These people are as real to me as the people down the hall at work, and often more pleasant. They’re always willing to talk to me and flood me with ideas – especially when I don’t have time to write them down – but that’s a different blog.

Does this happen to you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do plotters have this problem? Let me know!

4 thoughts on “When the Characters Take Over the Ship

  1. I know exactly what you’re talking about. My characters stopped fitting into ‘my’ stories long age. They write and I sit back and watch the story unfold. Now usually I know where I think they are going and like you I am delighted when they head off in a totally other direction.

  2. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who gets taken for a ride! The characters become so real to us, so when they take the story into their own hands I feel like I’m just going along for a joy ride!

    Great post, and so timely!

  3. I liked to write with an ensemble of characters. Each one ebbs and flows according to the plot. Trying to focus on one character alone sometimes stiffens the story. I like to see where each one takes me. If it is unexpected, which frequently happens, it usually works well.

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