Characters Behaving Badly

Right, this is going to have to be a quick blog because I’ve very nearly almost finished the first draft of my new book, The Silvergreen Sea, and I need to get back to it just as soon as I can to write the final scenes. Never mind that I already know I’m going to have to do loads of re-writes, the point is, it’s a first draft, and I want to get the damn thing finished.

One of the troublesome things about writing is that characters seldom do exactly what they’re told. This probably sounds ridiculous to a non-writer: after all, I create these people, I decide on their past and on their future, what they look like, what they do, what they say, what they think, whether they live or they die. I’m their all-powerful God.

Except, it’s not quite as simple as that. As soon as I’ve spun a character into existence, they start making their own decisions, clamouring for more attention, getting up to things behind my back. With this book (unlike the last), I’ve managed to bully my major characters into (mostly) behaving well, but then the minor ones have caused all kinds of trouble. One grabbed a knife and refused to play well with others. Another caught a horrible disease. Two more started a clandestine affair. It’s all very annoying. I can console myself with the thought that, if they’re leaping to life from the page for me, then with any luck they’ll similarly leap to life for the reader. Better to have troublesome characters than boring ones. And I suppose real human beings have never behaved quite as God intended, so if it’s a problem, it’s one I share with the Almighty.

Now, back to the literary coal-face, hoping my characters won’t have started any fires while I’ve been looking the other way.

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