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View Full Version : Is it normal to have characters that don't come out the way you want them?


BlueLucario
02-18-2008, 03:22 AM
2.)Okay. I have this one character, I want her to be like hermione, because well she's a pedant. She's obsessed with formal rules, what's in a book and she never shuts up with her lecturing. She loves books, and she's always obsessed with them.

But as I write them, it felt somewhat inconsistent. I wasn't feeling her bookish behavior, but I still have the caring talkative type. She plays an important role in the story. She supposed to go to the Grand Library and to look for information needed. And pick up books. She has to be into books, or it won't work.

Should I worry about this, or should I leave this alone?

1.)I also have another question about plot. Is it also possible, that when you write a scene you stay on it for too long and you have something else planned that you waste too much time on that one scene?

And when you had the scene in your head for weeks, and by the time you write, it's never going to be there?

You know how this would happen and yet it suddenly changes?

Mr Flibble
02-18-2008, 03:27 AM
Your character is trying to tell you something. They do, from time to time. It's up to you whether you listen to them, but my characters always end up better if I do.

She's going to the library to get information - that's motive enough. Besides in a library you don't have to be obsessive about books to pick them up. There isn't anything to else to pick up.

And yes it's all too easy to pick at something for far too long. If it's your first draft just make some notes about what's not working, and get on to the end. Your subconcious might well have come up with the answer as you write the rest ( or the end of the story may tell you)

blacbird
02-18-2008, 03:32 AM
Yep. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's a healthy thing for your writing. If you're writing well, ideas spring forth that weren't there at the beginning. Often they'll alter the course of your plot, or the nature of your characters. Being too restrictive about following an outline or plan isn't a good idea, IMO; it results in a kind of write-by-number story construction that can be anemic and feel shallow and truncated. I could name one specific highly-successful best-seller author who I know do this, and . . . I'll be kinder than normal, and refrain.

caw

Terran
02-18-2008, 03:35 AM
Leave it alone. Your character is coming alive, becoming her own person. Let her.

dpaterso
02-18-2008, 03:45 AM
I would do everything I possibly could to stop your bookworm character from reaching the Grand Library (obstacles, distractions, other pressing tasks, disasters, accidents, getting lost) and pass the job of searching for vital information to an idiot character who can barely find his own toes without help. Deny your eager bookworm that which she most desires -- that'll really bring out her character.

-Derek

Williebee
02-18-2008, 03:48 AM
Characters not coming out as you first envisioned them? Happens "all the time". When the writing gets good, they come alive. At that point, I'm just along for the ride. The "Director's" role doesn't happen until later, in the editing.

Jenan Mac
02-18-2008, 06:29 AM
I'll just second (eighth?) what everyone else has said. When your character starts to argue back, you know they're gaining depth. You don't want her to be like Hermione, you want her to be like herself.

Riley
02-18-2008, 07:02 AM
2. My characters never come out the way I want them to. This is because I don't hold them so closely to the "design" I had for them. (As long as they're not being terribly OOC--for lack of a better term--I don't mind.) In fact, I find that the closer the character sticks to the original outline, the flatter they are. They don't develop properly.

Keep an eye on your character. You shouldn't let your character get so out of control she ruins your plot, but let her develop, let her go her own way a little.

Try getting away from the "like Hermione" thing. Don't imitate a character, make a unique one (or at least let her develop into one).

1. I'm not sure what you're asking here. Care to elaborate? :)

Mumut
02-18-2008, 07:07 AM
As for a scene being too long, write it all out. Wait a few days then go back to it. On re-reading you'll see if any of it is not wanted. Then cut out the waffle but don't use the razor too soon. If the action needs to be there, keep it. I was once told 'what is the length of a story? The number of words necessary to tell it.'

Matera the Mad
02-18-2008, 07:11 AM
Listen when your characters talk -- they know more than you think ;)

Shweta
02-18-2008, 08:26 AM
2.)Okay. I have this one character, I want her to be like hermione, because well she's a pedant.

I know I'm repeating what someone already said but...

Blue, this has come up before, and I really think it will help you to stop copying. Or thinking about your writing in terms of copying.

Do let your character be your character, rather than a JK Rowling imitation. This is related to the advice that you should write your own action scenes rather than copying from manga, which came up in another thread.

Danger Jane
02-18-2008, 08:27 AM
It's definitely not bad that your character is acting on her own. Let her. As our friend the Idiot-seller says, if she's in a library...well, she'll pick up a book. And as Dpaterso says, it's usually a good idea to deny your characters what they love most--in the case of your character, books.

Who says an obsessive bookworm can't be caring, too, though?

Gillhoughly
02-18-2008, 09:20 AM
The best characters never do.

When mine start arguing with me, I back off and just type. It's their book, after all.

Works out pretty well, too. :D

Dragon-lady
02-18-2008, 09:24 AM
If I don't let them have their way, the ruin the book. I learned that the hard way. Blech.

wayndom
02-18-2008, 10:24 AM
It's not unusual for characters to not do or say what their authors want them to, and many writers feel it's better to let them, because the characters are more real when they act on their own.

In your case, though, the character you describe (pedantic, "anal retentive") may be rebelling because she doesn't want to be a drip, and that could be a very good thing.

I once was told by my agent, "I suppose it's okay for a character to be a bore, but you can never afford to let a character bore your readers." From the sound of your description, you might be better off letting her be more bearable.

lute
02-18-2008, 11:35 AM
I think there's a general consensus that you should just let her be. She's trying to tell you something by rebelling and going against the grain of how you first pictured it; she's developing. I also think it's important that you stop relating your characters to already established ones as Shweta pointed out; it does a disservice to your characters and to yourself, really.

BlueLucario
02-18-2008, 05:01 PM
I guess I can let them be. I liked that character anyway. It's difficult to find an archetype for one character and stick with it.

So just let everything come naturally?

Elaine Margarett
02-18-2008, 05:31 PM
I guess I can let them be. I liked that character anyway. It's difficult to find an archetype for one character and stick with it.

So just let everything come naturally?

Yes, Blue, that is what everyone has been telling you...

You keep asking if this and that is normal. Just write. Don't over analyze everything. Finish it first. Go over it; again and again, polishing it; looking for places where you already know you have issues, like redundencies, tense shifts, etc. We all have our weak spots as writers, we should all address these before we submit something for feedback.

Then, go over it again until your eyes glaze over and you simply can't read it and really see it anymore. Then submit it for feedback. Don't tell a critter when they comment on something that you already know it's a problem. If you know it's a problem fix it before asking someone to spend their valuble time and trouble on it.

This is what people here at AW have been saying. There simply is no shortcut to writing. You have to write, hundreds of thousands of words, and somewhere along the line, you'll find your voice.

EM

Marian Perera
02-18-2008, 06:44 PM
Blue, this has come up before, and I really think it will help you to stop copying. Or thinking about your writing in terms of copying.

And there's no point in copying something if you don't realize why that something works. Perhaps it works in the context that author used it, but it won't work in your own story, with your own characters and style. There are some good reasons the first Rowling book wasn't called Hermione Granger and the Philosopher's Stone.

Jenan Mac
02-18-2008, 10:24 PM
You keep asking if this and that is normal. Just write. Don't over analyze everything. Finish it first. Go over it; again and again, polishing it; looking for places where you already know you have issues, like redundencies, tense shifts, etc. We all have our weak spots as writers, we should all address these before we submit something for feedback.


And really, who cares if it's normal? Anybody can write normal. What you want isn't normal, you want interesting, and good.

maestrowork
02-18-2008, 10:52 PM
Stop copying JK Rowling.

Seriously. Stop.

Stew21
02-18-2008, 10:58 PM
I was looking at Amazon just a few minutes ago - I wanted to look up a Dean Koontz book. I haven't read any of his books in years, but heard I should check out Odd Thomas because his character talks to ghosts and it's of particular interest to me because my character does as well -- though the circumstances/plot/premise are completely different, I thought it might be fun to see how another author did this.
Well when i was there I saw this Q&A Mr. Koontz has withhis readers, and I thought this answer was relevant to this thread:

http://www.amazon.com/Odd-Thomas-Dean-Koontz/dp/0553384287/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203359009&sr=8-1

QUESTION: Have you ever been blindsided--midbook--by a plot twist you didn't see coming yourself? Or do you unfailingly stick to an outline?
-- Rebecca Going, Hillsboro, OR

ANSWER: I don't use outlines at all. I stopped using outlines with a book called STRANGERS many years ago. Interestingly, that was my first hard cover bestseller. I operate only with a hook, an idea, a premise. Call it what you will. And from that point, the story begins and I don't have much of an idea of where it is going. The characters are more crucial to me than the plot. If the characters interest me in the first couple of chapters, then the plot is going to take care of itself because the characters will drive it places I never saw it coming.
To answer the key part of this question, yes, I am constantly surprised by where books go because I never saw it coming. The characters may have seen it coming. This sounds rather strange. It sounds like I don't create the characters. And in truth, when you give yourself over to whatever talent you have, and you let it work, and you give your characters free will, it does become as if they are independent people from you. Something magical occurs and you are along for the ride. You have to guide the ride where you need to for narrative purposes. And you have to say "Well, wait a minute. That's too wacky. That isn't going to work." But you also have to be careful if you operate this way. You do have to trust in the characters.I remember when I was doing LIFE EXPECTANCY, I knew that the opening hook was going to be this lead character, the night he was born. His grandfather was going to die in the same hospital and the grandfather on his death bed made predictions about five terrible days in this boy's life. And he also predicted the boy's weight, height and various things about him at his birth. When the minor predictions come to be true, the weight and height, then everybody assumed that the five terrible dates in his life would also turn out to be true. And I started with that premise and didn’t know where it was going. I knew it was going to be a suspense novel and a comic novel about family but I was in the first chapter when I had the boy's father return to the waiting room and say that it was a “comforting room except for the chain-smoking.”
And I typed "clown" without any awareness that I was going to type "clown." I assumed, originally, I was going to type "the other chain-smoking expectant father," but instead I typed "clown" and it seemed like such an insane idea to introduce a clown in an expectant fathers' waiting room that I almost cancelled it out. But I said to myself, "Just trust the character. Go with it and see where it leads." Well, as that book turned out, it would have been impossible to imagine it any other way but with the clowns, which became a feature, an essence of the story and a metaphor in a very serious way that I wouldn't have had otherwise. So I just trust them. I trust the characters and that's where the plot comes from.

Higgins
02-18-2008, 11:00 PM
Yep. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's a healthy thing for your writing. If you're writing well, ideas spring forth that weren't there at the beginning. Often they'll alter the course of your plot, or the nature of your characters. Being too restrictive about following an outline or plan isn't a good idea, IMO; it results in a kind of write-by-number story construction that can be anemic and feel shallow and truncated. I could name one specific highly-successful best-seller author who I know do this, and . . . I'll be kinder than normal, and refrain.

caw

I agree 100%....

Patrick L
02-18-2008, 11:04 PM
I have one character, and he really ticks me off at times--but I can't help but like him.

It happens~!

lute
02-19-2008, 12:09 AM
I have one character, and he really ticks me off at times--but I can't help but like him.

It happens~!

Slightly off topic, but I know what you mean. I've had characters that have seriously annoyed me because our personalities just don't mesh. I remember when I started to write my NaNoWriMo '06 novel, one of my characters had some interesting chemistry with his younger brother. I was terrified when I kept writing and saw that it wasn't just brotherly affection, but realized that if I tried to stop it, it wouldn't make for nearly as interesting a story. While I'm not fond of his... personality, it's him, and I can't hate him for that. He turned out as the main villain, which I definitely wasn't expecting. But I can't help but like him, either. :)

Based on what everyone else has been saying, I think it's natural for things to happen like how you mentioned, BIY. Makes for diverse characters, hm?

DonnaDuck
02-19-2008, 01:17 AM
2.)Okay. I have this one character, I want her to be like hermione,

Should I worry about this, or should I leave this alone?

No. Don't make your characters like someone else's characters. We've told you repeatedly, in multiple threads, not to do this. Make your characters your own. If you want her to be a bookworm, fine, but don't make her like Hermione. The last thing anyone needs to a copycat character.

As for listening to them, just do it. Don't force your characters to do something that they don't want to do because it'll show in your writing. Just let them do their thing with minimal guidance. They know what they're doing.

1.)I also have another question about plot. Is it also possible, that when you write a scene you stay on it for too long and you have something else planned that you waste too much time on that one scene?

And when you had the scene in your head for weeks, and by the time you write, it's never going to be there?

You know how this would happen and yet it suddenly changes?

It happens all the time. You have a brilliant scene in your head, you go to write it and your characters change it to something else. Evaluate what you've written and see if it works. Then, perhaps, write the scene how you originally saw it and see if that works also. Chances are the former will work better. It's the way it was meant to be for the story, otherwise it wouldn't have veered off on you. Again, don't force it because you will end up writing for strict plans and your entire book will come off as planned and, as someone else pointed out, paint by numbers.

Ervin
02-19-2008, 02:54 AM
This does happen to me quite often, and when it does it's almost impossible to let it go. So I do both of us a favor and change my character.

Patrick L
02-19-2008, 02:56 AM
I've enjoyed all the responses in this thread. I've made screen copies and will refer back!

KikiteNeko
02-21-2008, 12:51 AM
It's like when my cousin was pregnant with a baby girl, she asked that nobody give her daughter pink clothes at the baby shower. She hates pink and everything it stands for. Yet her daughter (now four) LOVES pink, has a pink nursery and I swear, she's wearing something pink every time I see her.

It's like that with your characters. Let them do whatever it is they will do. If you fight it, you're not going to like how your writing fares. It's a good thing that they steer you in a different direction. It'll make them more believable in the end.


2.)Okay. I have this one character, I want her to be like hermione, because well she's a pedant. She's obsessed with formal rules, what's in a book and she never shuts up with her lecturing. She loves books, and she's always obsessed with them.

But as I write them, it felt somewhat inconsistent. I wasn't feeling her bookish behavior, but I still have the caring talkative type. She plays an important role in the story. She supposed to go to the Grand Library and to look for information needed. And pick up books. She has to be into books, or it won't work.

Should I worry about this, or should I leave this alone?

1.)I also have another question about plot. Is it also possible, that when you write a scene you stay on it for too long and you have something else planned that you waste too much time on that one scene?

And when you had the scene in your head for weeks, and by the time you write, it's never going to be there?

You know how this would happen and yet it suddenly changes?

BlueLucario
02-21-2008, 01:21 AM
Oh like THEY'RE pulling the strings, not the writer.

BlueLucario
02-21-2008, 04:47 PM
By the way. Is it possible to have a main character that just isn't MEANT to be a MC?

She_wulf
02-21-2008, 06:17 PM
By the way. Is it possible to have a main character that just isn't MEANT to be a MC?
Of course. But usually you find that out when you hit "writer's block" point. Something niggles at you telling you that it just doesn't work. If your intended MC is wrong your subconscious picks it up.

I started a novel a while back with an MC that wouldn't be present for all the events. Since it was being told first person, I was in a quandary. I re-worked what I'd finished as third person and HATED the result. Then I realized that the apprentice would be present for all the events except the set up. That I put into a prologue. Then the words flowed and the story wrote itself.

In the process the new MC developed personality I'd never envisioned. It twisted one of the major plot points back on itself adding new perspective. Which could bring up a whole new thread...telling both sides of the story - how do you do it?

:)

Amy

KikiteNeko
02-21-2008, 08:56 PM
Anything at all is possible. If your character decides one day that she is going to be stuck by one of those giant hurtling balls of airplane waste and die so that your story might become a dramatic comedy, that's possible too. Literally anything is.


By the way. Is it possible to have a main character that just isn't MEANT to be a MC?

cethklein
02-21-2008, 11:31 PM
Oh yeah, it's happened to me. Example, in my first book, there were to be three main characters in the unit, Aaron, Jared, and Lex. Brennor was supposed to only be in the first scene. He was supposed to be a support character during a raid. For whatever reason, he just stuck with me, i couldn't let him go. While the other characters were designed years ago, Brennor literally appeared back in June when I started writing. He's not a main character and one of my favorites, if not my favorite overall. He drives the story. Things would be totally different had I not added him. In fact his character is part of what kept me going. Lex was a loner and a very boring character to me but now he and Brennor work well together in scenes, it's crazy.

What happens is writers develop characters and they almost seem real so it's hard to change them. It's tough to change a character once they're designed. Thus, when new ones are added, they have to adapt to older ones, which forces them to develop personalities.

I said all that ot say this: Characters won't always come out as planned, but often times they'll come out better.

WistfulWriter7
02-24-2008, 09:09 AM
It is normal for plot and characters to surprise you. Just this weekend I wrote a short story about human nature and I thought I was going to show it's all about how we are raised, not the instincts we are born with...well...let's just say this character, Farrath, refused to be a good guy. So I say...just go with it. Don't worry about where you go...let your characters take you there and it will feel right. Good Luck and have fun!