Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who The Heck Are YOU??


I prepare before I write. I do. I know my setting. I know my history. Plot-wise, I know the identity of the victim. I know the identity of the killer. I know all the suspects' motives. I know who's good and who has evil lurking in their heart. I know, gosh-darn-it.

And then you start writing, and everything changes.


I've got characters turning on me left, right and center. These people are getting so persnickety they're barely talking to each other. Veiled comments are being made. Arms are being crossed. People are getting up and stalking out of rooms. Others are sneaking around opening doors and seeing what's going on inside. Some are stirring up trouble just for fun. For fun! I'm dealing with rabble rousers. I have no control.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm pleased as punch my many varmints are exhibiting different sides to their personalities, no one is all good or all bad in real life after all. But when you've done your preparation, I don't think it's too much to assume at least a few characters will act as expected.

My main plot and all my sub plots haven't changed. On that side of the playground things are ticking along just fine. But these characters! They need to behave.

I am appreciating the irony that the one character who isn't giving me grief is my killer. A well-behaved murderer. Who knew?

I'm sure as I continue they'll keep on doing the unexpected. That's fine. That's good. At least now, I'm prepared.

Has this happened to you? Are you master of the playground? Or do your characters too, insist on doing and saying what they want?

23 comments:

  1. Elspeth - Welcome to my world : ). I plan my writing beforehand, too, although I will admit, not down to every detail. Then, my characters come along and decide for themselves how they will behave and the roles they'll play. Usually that's because my first ideas for what I'm writing aren't as good as they are after some reflection, so I'm generally not too upset when I have to stop, go back, etc.. The end result is better.

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  2. I can't wait to have this problem. I'd love to have my characters giving me a hard time. By the way, Elspeth, thanks so much for your lovely comment on my blog yesterday. It meant to much to me. Perfect pitch? I'm sooooo jealous.
    karen

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  3. I usually know who my murderer is before I start but then sometimes the reasons why become more clear as I write. Sometimes another murder happens unexpectedly and shocks me. It made sense to the killer though. I love to let my characters do and say what they want...it's easier to change the plot than the person.

    ann

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  4. Margot; I'm glad someone else knows this chaos. I'm hoping it means the end results will be worthwhile.

    Karen; I meant every word of that comment. Your characters will give you a hard time. Just wait.

    Ann; What an interesting point of view! My characters' behaviour is giving me new twists to my plot, but the overall direction won't change. I've never had an unexpected murder. That would be un-nerving. Thanks for commenting!

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  5. I'm master of nothing. My characters are all bullies.

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  6. I definitely love to sit back and let the characters do what they will; it's part of the reason I don't do horrendously detailed outlines. I get so jazzed by a comment or action that I hadn't expected! But like you, I know the main story, the sub-plots and ending point, and my people know not to mess with those. ;)

    Elspeth, thanks so much for coming to my blog! It's nice to make new connections, and I appreciate your visits. :)

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  7. I guess my characters aren't smart enough to think on their own. They just wait for me to tell them what to do. I wish they'd take more initiative!

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  8. Makes me wonder, do you ever question the concept of detailed prep when this happens? Have you considered a bit of freelancing and outlining? It must be frustrating.
    Best Regards, Galen.

    Imagineering Fiction Blog

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  9. Carol; This sound eerily familiar.

    Janna; Thanks for dropping by. Aren't new connections great?

    Alan; I'm sure your characters are plenty smart. Maybe they're sneaky and you just thought you were in charge.

    Galen; A great deal of the detailed prep is for the plot and the motives. None of that ever changes. I can't imagine writing without knowing where I'm going. The company may change, but not the direction of the journey.

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  10. I have never written anything that comes out like I planned at the beginning of the project, whether it's a short story or a novel, but I feel fortunate that my characters come up with ideas of their own. I enjoy not knowing what's going to happen - I guess I've always loved surprises.

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  11. Isn't that amazing how plot, setting and characters change and without asking - I might add. So who's in charge?

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  12. I love the picture you've painted of your rebellious cast! Sounds to me like they are developing into strong characters.

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  13. Well, I certainly don't plot in advance. My first mystery wasn't until about sixty pages in then I realized it was. My characters totally do what they want. I've even gone so far as to describing someone's father getting off the bus in fine detail and found out he wasn't the dad - the dad was a totally different looking dude behind him! My characters move to Alberta and have babies and quit their jobs. If they don't do something surprising it is because I've killed them somehow. And they'll get me back later....bwhahaha! Those pesky characters - they delight me, they surprise me, they perplex me.

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  14. Jane; You've certainly got the right attitude of taking joy in the process. Congratulations.

    JW; Just my characters have changed and they haven't really changed, they're just showing me sides I didn't know existed. I refuse to let go of the plot decisions.

    Deb; Please, please, please, I hope you're right.

    Jan; I cannot imagine writing not knowing where I'm going. I have to have the basics down before I start. Taking blind leaps over cliffs is NOT my thing. I admire your bravery.

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  15. Sometimes I wonder if I'm strictly an observer :) It's so much fun when the characters do their own thing, but they can be a little tough to corral!

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  16. I think it's fun to find out what happens as we go along. Who knows who the killer might end up being?

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

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  17. I learned very early on that my characters are taking me for the ride and not the other way around. The thing I love most is when they surprise me.

    :)

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  18. Jemi; They can be ornery critters, can't they?

    Elizabeth; You can write without knowing whodunnit??? I'm in awe.

    Elisa; You're absolutely right, the ride can be fun.

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  19. LOL. That happens to me quite a bit. I currently have a character who refuses to stop with the trash mouth. I have tried to clean up her language and pretty soon she is burning up my keyboard again.

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  20. Maryann; I don't have that particular problem, but I do have one character who I threatened with being cut if he didn't start talking, now he won't shut up. I have another who I thought was sweet. It turns out, not so much.

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  21. I don't write mystery, but dang it, my characters sure do keep me amused. And it's not just them, it's the plot line, it has a mind of it's own sometimes.

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  22. "And then you start writing, and everything changes."

    LOL, I laughed out loud when I read that. So true. I've written out detailed plotlines before and not even 1/4 the way through the writing had to throw it out because it wasn't even close to what was actually goin' down in the book anymore.

    Marvin D Wilson

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  23. Do characters ever do what you want them to? I would think not, because the moment you breathe life into them, they become people, and people are unpredictable.

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