Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Write When Your Characters Won't Cooperate

It's been a busy few days and I've hardly gotten any writing done. Sometimes it's hard to find the time, even with a supportive husband to pick up more than his fair share of household responsibilities. Sometimes (okay a lot of the time) I have plenty of time, I just find it hard to make myself get the words out of my head and onto my screen. This whole gonna write a novel adventure has reminded me of something I've always known: writing is damn hard.

When I'm in my zone, the words flow like liquid gold from my brain to my fingertips. My characters are active, vibrant and complex, my dialogue is snappy and intelligent, and all I really have to do to hit my word count goal is close my eyes and type what's going on in my imagination. It's like I don't even have to try all that hard to come up with the actions, my characters just take on a life of their own and do what they need to do.

Unfortunately, sometimes what they need to do is hide in a dark closet and pretend they're not home when I knock on the door. Sometimes what they need to do is eat cookies when I tell them they need to go paint the tree house. And most infuriating of all, sometimes they need to tie me up to the tree house tree and dance around me like little Lord of the Flies heathens while blowing into their conch shells and throwing sticks at me. Even the adults. Needless to say, it's danged near impossible to type what I see when I'm tied up to a tree in the middle of a forest.

Sigh.

So what's an author to do?

If you're this author, you do one of several things:

1. You try to rationalize with your characters and assure them that you have their best interests at heart and that you'd never, ever  kill one of them off, even if you fully intend to.

2. You start to cry like an overstimulated two-year-old and hope they take pity on you.

3. You write their stubborn rears into terrifying situations that only you can save them from. I've found that dangling them over a steep cliff with a stormy sea below brings about an amazing change in attitude. The same can be said of locking them in a dark room with a bunch of hungry rats. Really, the struggling author is only limited by his or her own imagination. And since the characters are fictional, you don't even have to worry about jail time!

4. You try to write them in the way you think they should be written but end up failing miserably and falling back to option #2.

5. You just throw your hands up and shout "FINE! If that's how you want it, you just go ahead and goof off forever in your little world and nobody will ever hear about you and your amazing adventures. I'm going to go read a book that's filled with good characters who behave and do what they're told." Of course, this option does have the inherent danger of the actual living people who are near you thinking your a mad woman (or man), so I would suggest  not taking this track if you are writing at a coffee shop or the public library.

6. Last but not least is one of my favorite options. Write a bunch of smack about what to do if your characters won't listen to you, make yourself a drink and settle in on the couch for an evening of The Muppet Show.

What do you do when your characters won't cooperate?

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