I love character creation. It’s one of the best things about being a writer—there’s something special about inventing a person from scratch, giving them flaws and setting them on a path for change, for good or ill.
At the beginning of any novel, Sarah and I make detailed character sheets for each main character with all their traits, fears, backstory, and flaws that make them who they are. We map out their arcs and plot them into our story. Therefore, by the time we finally start writing, we feel that we already know them quite well. Sometimes it’s tricky to get a handle on their voice, but we know the bones of who they are.
And somehow, they still find a way to surprise us.
One of the characters I have been writing recently has taken on a life on his own. Yes, he is essentially the same man we designed during the planning stages of our book. He has the same looks, the same backstory, and the same flaws. But there is more to him now. He’s complex. The simplistic good/evil architype (although it didn’t feel simplistic at the time) that we gave him at the beginning has blurred. And now, our plans for him are… complicated.
The further we get writing this book, the more questions about what his future holds arise. More importantly, questions about the mechanics of the plot are also starting to surface. Will the plot still work with him being more multifaceted than we thought? Will the readers have the intended responses to his decisions, and consequently our plot points? Will it still be the same story we intended to write? Do we need to change the story to compensate for the character’s intricacies?
Honestly, we have no idea.
For me, the characters we create become real people with their own will to make decisions. Thus far, the character has been following his script willingly, charging down the path to the fate we have written for him. But the question remains, will he continue to do so?
Have your characters ever wrestled control over the story from you? How did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below.