What to do when your characters won’t behave themselves?
Okay, so I have my protagonist (a necromancing child of darkness, spawned in Hell but violently rejected by the Devil himself and conflicted to the very dust within his bones between Good and Evil) and my setting (he’s living out his days in the mortal realm as a cop in a run-down, corrupt precinct because he gets to feed his unholy urges while saving those few good people who really need his help), and the overall theme to the story (an awakening to truth, rebirth, salvation).
I also have a story outline. I have pictures, scenes and characters in my head, all scrabbling for attention. I know where I’m starting, and I know how I want to end. I can see it all, in glorious detail.
So I begin to write.
And this is where my troubles begin to manifest. – or, rather, trouble. Singular.
My character won’t do as he’s told.
I draw him into a situation, expecting him to act in a certain way, so that I can head in a suitable direction for my pre-conceived ideas of future scenes to fit. But once I begin to type, I find that he won’t act in the way I want. Instead, he seems to evolve within the scene, learning things I hadn’t even seen myself. Like a child who’s growing up too quickly – from toddler to schoolkid to a self-aware young adult even before I’ve managed to wrap my head around their first words.
I scrap what I’ve written, and try again. I need him to fit. Only, he has other ideas. He wants to have more depth, more complexities as a character, and he’s showing me these new sides to him, instead of just doing as he’s bloody well told.
Delete. Restart. Delete. Restart. Delete. Restart. He still won’t behave, and I’m beginning to wonder whether this story is ever going to get told.
I appreciate the irony. I’ve spent my entire life fighting any kind of definitions, expectations or labels which others would try to force upon me – parents, teachers, peers, society – even if I lost out in the process. I’ve always be determined to live my life in my own way, at my own pace, regardless of any outside pressures or demands.
But here I am, trying to shoehorn my character into a life he continues to reject.
So I shed my ego, loosen the reins, and open up the scene, dropping him into the heart of it, but gently, and as my fingers race across the keyboard, I’m amazed at how he’s grown, and the decisions he makes. He knows how to look after himself, and he knows where he’s heading, even if I don’t.
I’m so proud of him, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out…