Listening to Characters

I’ve read so many articles where writers described how their characters talked to them. How the characters led the story and made decisions of their own. And I thought it was so cool. I wanted that to happen. I wanted my characters to come alive and be something more than 2D ideas. But every time I wrote, it never happened. I realized later it was because I never got to know them enough to allow them to come alive.

As I wrote TNWSY, I had a general idea of how the book would start and end. I had a beginning fleshed out and finish line all of the characters were running towards. But as for the middle, there was just a bare skeleton guiding me. Sure, I had ideas of what would happen to get them from point a to point b, but never real concrete plans. I was scared, of course, that I wouldn’t figure it all out.

But as I approached an undecided part, I found scenes coming to me. Not always easily, but they came quickly and excitingly. My characters decided they didn’t want to stay at a party, instead they wanted to go out. They told me where they should go, they led the story. And it was absolutely amazing. Even my ending, the one I previously plotted, was changed. They thought it was too cheesy, of course.

After I finished, I went back and re-read it. Starting with the first chapter, I noticed how out of character some quotes were, how unauthentic. That’s how I realized my characters had voices. As soon as I realized that, I knew I was on the right track.

That’s not to say my story is perfect or even complete – even right now I’m finding new things to change and add. I’m just saying that, despite it never happening before, it is possible for characters to come alive. It’s amazing and crazy and, well, magical. They create stories of their own, and, as a writer, it’s our job to just catch up.

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