Saturday, May 15, 2010

I Thought I Knew Her

When I began my current WIP I was confident I had my heroine all figured out. I knew exactly what she looked like, her tragic backstory, even her OCD quirk of separating M&M's by color before eating them. OK, that's my OCD quirk, but that's beside the point. Bottom line, I thought I knew this woman as well as I know my best friend. It was the hero that had me stumped. I had no idea what he looked like or even why he was in this story.

Fast forward several months. I'm looking at my heroine and asking, "Who ARE you?" The backstory is the same. She still looks the same. Her GMC is still even the same. So why has she suddenly become a stranger to me? And the hero? I still have a little trouble "seeing" him but otherwise he's become the proverbial open book.

I always laughed when writers said their characters had taken over the story or refused to "talk" to them. I thought to myself, "it's your story, you're making it up so why are you blaming the characters?" Ah, the bliss of ignorance.

Have you had characters hijack a story? Or (as in my case) go into hiding and refuse to play? How did you handle their bad behavior? I'm not sure it will help, but I'm about to have a stern discussion with a certain lady I thought I knew.


A man called Valance said...

No matter how well I think I know a character at the outset, I always know them better by the end.

A good way of getting to know a character is to ask them random questions. Strange as it seems, it works. Throws up a few surprises, too.

Piedmont Writer said...

I'm one of those writer's whose characters talk to them. I know my heroine, I have no clue about my hero. He better do something pretty quick otherwise, he's going to find himself outside looking in.

Cari Hislop said...

I know this feeling! I'd take it as a good sign in a weird way. She's just miffed that you're trying to force her to do something she doesn't want to do. Maybe you haven't got the right hero?
Maybe she's planning to meet a different hero and her plans are being ruined by an 'arranged relationship'? When my characters sulk I KNOW I'm doing something the writing I did today. I think I'll have to delete all of it because even though it perfectly gets my heroine where I want her...where I want her isn't necessarily where she wants to be.

Valance is right: ask her some questions...ask her what sort of man she likes...or thinks she likes.
Maybe she dreams of the proverbial tall dark and handsome but the man destined to win her heart is short with red hair? Who knows! Good luck!

Jeanie said...

I agree with Cari. If your characters are misbehaving, it may be because you are forcing them in a direction they don't want to go. What I like about writing are the surprise characters you run into, the ones you didn't anticipate.

Christine said...

Great post and so true. I have had my characters take vacation (very scary), then return when I thought I'd appeased them. Then I had to interview them all over again because the story still wasn't set in stone. Now I have too much information. But we'll see how it all turns out. Yes, they do talk to me.

Good luck!

Paula said...

I've had this happen twice in the last two books. You just write through it. Keep changing things up--maybe the GMC isn't quite right. Maybe there's a different motivation for what she's doing that could open up the story completely.

The suggestion of asking your characters some random questions is a good idea, but the questions don't have to be so random to work. Maybe you've reached a point in the book where the character is refusing to do something that you think the plot requires. Ask her why she's balking. Or why she's so stubbornly insisting on doing something different. Her answer may open up new story avenues to explore.

We may say that our characters are talking to us, but we all know that it's really our own brains trying to sort out the story and the way we know, instinctively, it's supposed to go.

Louisa Cornell said...

My characters are constantly surprising me. Sometimes pleasantly. Sometimes not.

I tend to listen to them because they know more about the story than I do most of the time!

And yes, when I try to push them in the wrong direction they do push back.

Do you think they fact that we see and hear and communicate with people who only exist in our heads means the guys with the butterfly nets and the white coats are going to show up soon?

Carla Swafford said...

Oddly, the heroine is the one I have a hard time getting to know. She's usually totally unlike me and truthfully, I'm not interested in her. It's the guy. I want to tell the readers about him and it's his interest in her, that brings me back to earth. Oh, I've got to explain who she is?

Answering questions is good. Diana and Mary's book, BREAK INTO FICTION, is good at asking those questions.

JoAnn said...

Great blog, Nannette. I know you'll figure her out!