Wednesday 23 October 2019

Keeping up with your characters

A couple of tweets this week from two big name authors, bewailing the fact that the characters from their Works in Progress have not lost the plot, but simply run off with it, got me pondering about what goes on inside a writer's head. Many writers will tell you a similar story, of protagonists who refuse to co-operate, doing  their own thing, disappearing  into the distance, sometimes running, often laughing ... It's an occupational hazard.

But -  the big problem is, although the characters feel as if they have an independent existence, and wills of their own, they all actually originate with the author. It is a totally disconcerting, but fascinating realisation. Clearly the mind has it all worked out, because the characters' independent adventures usually work out in the end.  The weird thing they did on page 40 suddenly makes sense on page 192.

How does that happen? I really wish I knew. There is probably material there for a scientific study.Or is there? If the author doesn't know, can anyone else find out? Presumably it's all to do with the subconscious mind, which apparently has a heap of rich independent stuff going on.  This is presumably where murder, mayhem and villainous villains originate, which is the disconcerting bit. I'm not sure, but I'm wondering if this is also where the problem of characters' names comes from. Sometimes you just know that a character is not right, and it turns out that they have been labouring under the wrong name. Or the supporting character who grows and grows and attempts to take over the story. I haven't had that problem personally, yet, but I know friends who have been forced to promise them their own book, just to keep them quiet. It's all very mysterious.

I'm not doing any original writing at the moment, other than my homework for evening class - more of that anon, as they say. I'm currently mostly sorting out chaos left over from months concentrating on the PhD, with some revising and editing of something I hope will be going to the publisher early in the new year. When I start writing again I will try and make a note of what is going on with plot and characters. I strongly suspect it will remain a mystery though.

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