Tuesday, June 3, 2014

IWSG - "Channeling" your characters

To visit other IWSG postings, click here
Even as children, we were bossy: We were both eldest children and used to ordering around our younger siblings.

But somehow that doesn't work with our characters, who somehow manage to develop minds of their own when we get to know them.

 * * *
First, though, this is the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop, hosted by our incomparable Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh (thanks, Cap'n!), postings shared on the first Wednesday of every month by a host of conspiratorial scribblers:

"Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

* * *
Now back to the promised topic:

Channeling Your Characters

The first week of June we completed the third in a once-a-month three-part guest series for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) blog, and we chose the topic of collaborative writing -- something we're always asked about when we do readings.

If you've visited our blog before (or gone to one of our readings), you already know the answer to how we write: We compose at the same time in front of the keyboard. (Since we use Mark's laptop and Kym hates the cursor touch pad, Mark keys in most of the story, which has led him to claim that he "writes" all of the novels -- technically true, but not a popular answer in Kym's eyes.)

Although our guest series covered many strategies to think about if authors want to collaborate on projects, we ended the piece straying onto the topic of how our characters usually take over our stories. Even though we've learned that we play nice together as collabowriters, our innate bossiness still marches to the front when it comes to letting someone else make suggestions.

What "write" do our characters have to tell us what to do? After all, they get the starring roles and deliver all the best lines. But the deeper we get into a tale, the more  they insist on where the story should go and -- the biggest affront of all -- often object to what we propose they do and say.

Talk about Frankenstein creations!

It took us a long time to learn we'd better curb our sarcasm when our characters come to the table with an alternative plan. (We'd never let on to them, but on the QT we're confessing to you that their ideas are always better. And when we ignore them, the stories are never as good.)

Okay, before you write us off as hoodoo practitioners, let's clarify how we've decided this actually makes sense -- even to our rational minds.

It's no secret the key to a good story is great characters. We seldom read a book or watch a movie where we say two weeks later, "Wow! What a great plot." But we often find ourselves entranced by well developed characters, returning again and again to discuss what made them so memorable.

That's the reason, of course, why authors spend so much time developing (hopefully) good characters, and learning to get to know them.

In our own experience, we don't really know them well until we're about halfway into a novel. By then, it's easy to finish the story because, no matter what we throw at them, they tell us how they'd react and how they'd grapple with the problems we devise. In some ways it takes a lot of pressure off us. Hey, don't blame the authors -- we were just writing what we were told.

Guess we should come clean and admit we'd still rather be in charge. But just because we're authors doesn't mean we're stupid. We know who we'd better listen to if we want stories someone else will want to read.