"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." — Ernest Hemingway
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The Crafts of Fiction

When Your Character is Acting Out

I’ve been stuck with my characters for a while now. They’re stubborn and unfortunately, they are not reliable. What they want changes all the times, perhaps they want too many things. If this is the case for you–yes, I’m gonna say the inevitable ‘keep on writing’ first–what you have to do is to just write out whatever that is bothering her or him. Get to know your character. Alter your writing, though. If you’re writing in a third person, switch it to first. If you write in first, vice versa. This will give you a fresh perspective on your character.

Figure out what they want. What you think they want is not actually true yet. That’s just the surface. I thought my character (I already forgot her name) wants to die, but apparently she just wants to leave her husband. That’s a tough discovery. Imagine if I let her die and the husband takes over the story. That’s not what she wants, that’s not what the story wants; I would be cheating on her will.

Remember the mantra: the story will not move forward if you don’t know what they want. I’m assuming you already have a background knowledge of these people. Now, when you’ve tried another POV and realize their issues somehow (read, reread between the lines), free write a couple of times merely focusing on what is ideal for them (do the 500 word daily exercise), then the next step is to give them another obstacle. Return to the original story and give them NOT what they want.

Make them cry, make them crawl, make them as miserable as you can. No, they most definitely cannot get what they want. The most appealing thing of a story is achieving what seems impossible. Or not achieving it. Oh, how devastating. How sad.

So, to summarize the exercise:

  1. Change your point of view of the story, yet you still stick to your main character (or any character you’re struggling with): first to third, third to first (500 words).
  2. Freewrite on what your character’s wants and write what it means to live in “an ideal world” on their shoes, the “happily ever after” (750 words).
  3. Return to your original draft; give them obstacle, knowing what they actually want (250-as many pages as you like).
  4. See if this will work in your story. If not, toss them away (not literally, just cut and paste to a different document, in case you can use it in another time or section of the story).

Basically, just be mean. The story will take another turn, perhaps.

Note: Featured image above is from Tinkerbells.

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