Saturday, July 07, 2007

Character Free Will

You always hear writers say that often stories write themselves, or that characters do what they want. It is funny how true this is. I'm working on a scene now where I was planning for my character to redeem himself, at least in some small way. But he won't do it. He resists. He is hardened character, turning harder when given the opportunity for a bit of empathy and understanding. What this means for him I'm not sure. How will he turn out in the end? Will he come around and soften up? Will he realize what is important in life, or has he closed himself off for good? How will this effect my conclusion?

How much free will do characters really have? I suppose that it's likely that the more you know a character, the more established she or he is in a story, the more likely it is that the character will find his or her on way, while you just drag your pen along to their whim. Just starting a story you might even really know what drives the character yet, and so bending him to your will is easier. Two hundred and forty handwritten pages into this project and I can barely rein my characters in. The good thing is that I'm surprised by them.


  1. Hi Damon
    Sorry, this isn't a direct comment on this post, but the only way I could think of to contact you.
    I'm asking a selection of writer/bloggers to contribute their thoughts to
    the following question. What phases are involved in the creation of a text?
    The implication of the question is, of course, that writing does in fact
    go through phases.
    Whereas most readers who do not write themselves believe that a text is
    created from a single inspiration, they may also subscribe to the
    paradoxical view that its genesis is to be found in some kind of formula.
    As a writer you will know that there are no rules, or if there are rules
    they are there only to be broken; and also that, generally speaking, there
    is no single inspiration.
    Most writers will admit to an initial idea followed by a gradual process
    made up of individual phases. I would like, eventually, if possible, to
    come to some kind of collage of what those phases may be.
    I'm planning to publish replies to the question on my blog during August.
    I'd really like you to be involved. I'm not looking for lengthy and
    involved essays, simply a description from a personal point of view of
    what characterizes those phases for you, if you like in relation to a
    particular piece of work.
    Best wishes
    John Baker

    PS. When replying, please make sure I have the address of your blog, so that your reply can be credited correctly.

  2. hi,
    it's true what you say and it's what makes writing so interesting. I'm trying to write my first story and sometimed I start with an idea,but then my character comes up with something else!
    good luck with your story, what is it about?

  3. Valentina,
    My "project" is roughly about the effect of the death of a beloved sheriff's deputy on members of a rural community. It's sort of an ensemble piece, with several major characters pushing the story along according to each's will.
    It is funny how you can't force change on a character. It has to be real for them. And if they resist, then it's not right.