Friday, March 21, 2014

Who's the Boss?

Every once in a while I get the idea that I am in charge. It isn’t a ludicrous thought. I am the writer. The books are mine. The characters are mine. (And by mine I mean mine and Stephanie’s. But you all get that. It’s just that all those ours and we’s get clumsy.)  Anyway, it isn’t Stephanie who disabuses me of the thought that I am in charge.

It’s them—the characters, the ones who are really running this show. Sometimes I think they are just out there in an alternate universe, waiting to knock me down just when I think I am in control. It’s bad enough when a character I’ve planned, the one I know about, sidles up to me and says, “No. I’m not doing that. You can’t make me.” I can deal. I’ve learned to let them have their way because it really works out for the best.

What is really disconcerting is when a character rises from the swamp like some kind of misplaced southern Poseidon and says, “Here I am. You are going to need me.” 

You see Stephanie and I are working on a new series. We sold on proposal this time so we’ve done what she has been trying to force me to do for years—sketched out the characters and somewhat plotted what’s going to happen. (I say “somewhat” because I am a pantser and can only go so far.)

The first book got off to little bit of a rocky start because I started in the wrong place. But it turned out fine. I didn’t lose what I had already written. It happens, just not first. It was going great. The heroine is determined and the hero, a country music superstar, has lost more than most people ever have. He is alone and emotionally bankrupt. He has no one.

Then along comes Dirk. Yeah. Dirk. You know him. He was the hero’s childhood friend and is head of security for the hero’s property.  Dirk is cramping my style. He is bossy and has no regard for what I think needs to happen. And he certainly isn’t going anywhere.

Ah, Dirk. What am I to do?

Have you ever had a Dirk sneak into your story? How did you deal with him?


Ali Hubbard said...

Great post and I'm learning about this too. Book 3 in my series was supposed to the "less tortured" soul but he may be in worse shape than the first 2. I think this is why I can't PLOT-PLOT (which is weird in itself because I insanely plan out/organize everything else in my life! So, maybe that's characters taking control in another way!).

Alicia Hunter Pace (aka Jean Hovey and Stephanie Jones) said...

I know what you mean, Ali. My spices are in alphabetical order. I run a decent calendar. But when it comes to writing, I am like a wild woman running through the universe with no plan. Yet, it always turns out.

Cari Hislop said...

I totally know what you mean! I once tried to kill a character (I know I killed him - he was dead - shot through the heart) - but he disagreed and demanded his own story. Characters are freaking pushy!!!

When they just walk into your head and start talking it's SO weird, but I've learned to trust my characters. I, sadly, know nothing.

I had an evil character walk into my head once - I had no idea he existed let alone that he was going to be at the ball. He literally walked into the story and creeped out the heroine (and me!). Hearing his voice in my head always gives me the creeps. I agree with your alternative universe theory! It would explain a lot.

Louisa Cornell said...

I spend quite a bit of my time arguing with my characters.

"You want to do what??"

And the thing that makes me crazy is when I think I have a really great handle on their back story and they suddenly come back at me with something that makes me step back and go "Whoa!"

Stephanie Jones AKA Alicia Hunter Pace said...

That would be creepy.

Sometimes I tell Jean who the "Bad Guy" is and she doesn't believe me in the beginning but I don't think we have ever had evil show up unplanned.

Stephanie Jones AKA Alicia Hunter Pace said...

I know just what you mean! Sometimes our characters want to do things that I think really don't even fit into the story but it turns out that they usually do know best.

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, yes. There's been many of a time I've said, "Who the hell are you?" And it wasn't to my husband. :-)

Alicia Hunter Pace (aka Jean Hovey and Stephanie Jones) said...

Carla. Yeah. Been there.