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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Characters - do they have a life of their own?

This is a debate I've been considering lately; some (real) writers claim that their characters never act or speak on their own. They say that each word and act is carefully considered and thought through, and that their creations never do anything spontaneous. It's been said that to claim that they do is pretentious and even ridiculous.
Now - these are real, paid writers, so people like me are supposed to listen to them, right?

The truth is I think it depends on the way you write; some authors, like Dean Koontz for instance, polish each and every page until it's as perfect as they can make it, and only then do they move on.
I prefer to hammer away at my keyboard and let everything just spill out onto the page, and then I go back and cut away at it, and change it, until it's reading the way I like it. Because of this, my characters sometimes, often in fact, do things that surprise me. Sometimes it causes problems when that happens, sometimes it solves them.

It's always a joy.

A little while ago I had cause to ask my lead male, Richard Lucas, to drop his friend off at the airport. When he came back to his car there was a man leaning on it. I sat here for ages staring at the screen, wondering who this man was and where he came from. He is now a major character and the person who stands between Lucas and his future.

Yesterday I was writing a conversation between this character and someone else, and it turned out that the other had an uncanny knack for mimicry. I don't know how, but I believe this is going to impact on the story quite significantly.

Does this make me pretentious? I hope not.

3 comments:

baggiebird said...

Hey Terri, i'm not to sure about the whole character debate I just think you have to write the way that suits you. Some people need to write with contraints others (like you) can write with freedom and without fear and let their characters lead the way. Just keep doing what your doing your way. Oh and I can't wait to read you first novel

Rabidus Badgerus said...

"some (real) writers claim that their characters never act or speak on their own." I reckon if a character is real enough you can have excellent conversations with them; I won't embarass myself by telling you who said character is!

"They say that each word and act is carefully considered and thought through" The exact opposite of me.

patroclus said...

It doesn't make you pretentious at all. When I used to write made-up stuff (as opposed to the academic and factual-type stuff I write these days), things always used to appear in the text that I hadn't intended to be there.

Not necessarily characters, but words and phrases that turned out to have more significance or layers of meaning than I'd thought, and so on.

Our minds move in mysterious ways, alright, and I guess that what we write is as much an externalisation of our subconscious thoughts as it is of our conscious thoughts.

Oh lord, do *I* sound pretentious now?