Characters. I love creating them and usually, I have them under control…mostly. But every once in a while, a character is strong enough to make his or her wishes known. Without even realizing it, aspects of the character or their history push through the fog of my mind to take center stage.
Let me give you an example:
I’m working on a story called Surrender and it’s about a woman who is probably 5 minutes away from dying..if she’s lucky. Considering her history, I doubt it. The story is in first person, a POV I’m not used to writing in, but I find that I’m creating more stories that require it. Anyway, her name is Natasha and she is a serial killer. Yeah, I know, don’t jump to conclusions yet because her main target is aliens and her MO is cutting off their heads as it is the only way to kill them….
It’s complicated alright!
Anyway, Natasha is, naturally the center of this piece of drama. I’ve been in her head for the last few weeks every day during every break that I have. I move through her motivations, her history which caused her to go from house wife to serial killer…. remember, it’s complicated. She’s dragged through the ship, thrown on the floor, the only thing keeping her alive is a visit through her past as she remembers not only why she is where she is, but how she got there. I reached the point where she is kneeling in front of her nemesis, the Queen alien, and is remembering her perceptions of this Queen who is young in respect to her race.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Natasha says this:
“Weeks went by where I held onto the mistaken belief that her youth was her downfall. In my time of hunting these bastards down, I’ve worked with two people. The first fool was Scott, his youth snatched away by his brother first and me second. He had the mistaken belief that having honor and justice on his side meant he would succeed. This Queen taught him, and me, the error of our ways. Scott paid with his life, I paid with my soul. I suppose, between the two of us, Scott got the best deal out of the exchange.”
Who the hell is Scott?????
I don’t remember creating him, and I know for a fact that I’ve never created a character named Scott so where the hell did he come from? If anyone can find where he came from, could you drop me a line???
In all seriousness though, I let Natasha have her way. Clearly she wanted to talk about Scott, who was I to step in her way? So, as a dutiful writer, I followed behind her like a lost puppy wondering when I will regain control. I have now, but the episode reminded me of an e-mail I received a few years back.
This person was working on a story that sounded very intriguing. In fact, I wonder if he is still working on it, but anyway, I was serving in the role of mentor. Considering our relationship, it was an unexpected flip that opened me to a new experience. He was three quarters through the first draft when he sent me an e-mail that sounded a cross between distress and panic. In summary, he said “My characters aren’t doing what I tell them to. What do I do?”
My answer: “Go with it.”
- The Fictional Character that Came to Life by Khalid Al Hariri (littlevillagemagazine.wordpress.com)
- Ethan Cross: Writing about serial killers (thestoryplantblog.com)