Oh, Behaaave, You Characters!

We novelists may not be control freaks in their everyday lives, but when it comes to our fiction, watch out! We create whole worlds of characters to boss around, casts of characters to set down inside a maze we've not only laid out for them but stocked with pitfalls, bombs, and monsters.

And then we make these characters behave exactly as we like.


I doesn't quite work that way. Because if you're created fully-realized "people," they're going to have their own, very definite opinions on how they'll behave. And they're going to develop (at least at your unconscious level) their own thoughts about and relationships with the other characters who populate the story. Once in a while, they'll even tap you on the shoulder and inform you there's a new character just around the corner emerging without so much as a by-your-leave, a "person" that the character you've come up with knows or loves or hates.

Your job, as the author, is to manage without micromanaging, allowing your characters to surprise you without letting them totally derail the story. Because, just like the rest of us, characters like to sit around and gab, goof off, or laugh about The Donald's hair-wing.

The trouble is, this sort of thing does not a story make. So try allowing the characters to talk among themselves as they stroll the maze. But don't be shy about tossing in a hand grenade when things start to get boring, or dropping in a monster to chase them back on track.

Then sit back and allow them to surprise and delight you as they react in interesting and unanticipated ways.


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