Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Hate to Admit This . . . But

Last month I rambled on about that edgy YA that was so exciting, and then on day 16 it packed its bag and took a vacation. Not to be hindered by fickle characters, I gleefully launched a new project and started turning one of my middle grade novels into a YA. That lasted for several days--8?

So there I was at Chapter 7, feeling pretty smug when, wham, this other middle grade popped into my head, one I'd written and tucked away a year ago. All that book needed was a few adjustments and I'd have something ready for my critique group and maybe I could sub it by this summer.

That's when something very strange happened. Here's the story: I was at my desk, hammering out those "adjustment" when I heard this pounding at my front door. When I opened the door a whole gaggle of people clustered outside. One, a young nondescript girl wearing either a sweater or a blouse, I couldn't tell, stepped out of the group.

"They've chosen me as the spokesperson," said she.


"Your characters."

I cast a wary eye over the crowd. Three young boys, one in a striped T-shirt and taller than the others, stood with their arms crossed, their eyes unfriendly.

"I remember you. You're in that Dragon story, right?"

They nodded in unison.

"Did I write you as hostile young boys?"

"No," the tall boy said. "It's the waiting that's made us this way."

"I see." I noticed an older woman looking rather lost and teary in the middle of the group. "Why are you so unhappy?"

"That's the way you left me two years ago. Could you please just step on it and figure out how to get me out of this slump?"

"Gee, I didn't think . . . I mean, you're just characters--" The crowd turned hostile. I held up both hand in apology. "I'm doing the best I can. Right now I'm all over that ghost story. I picked out two characters who had to be Ben and Allie because they looked like Ben and Allie, the ones from Chapter 7, and the other characters were casting jealous glances in their direction.

The nondescript girl cleared her throat. "All we want is some follow through, you know? I'm tired of not having a personality or even decent . . . clothes." She passed her hand over her unexceptional self.

"Thank you for bringing me your concerns. I'll make a plan and stick to it. Promise." I turned to go back to the safety of my office, but stopped in the doorway and looked back at Ms. Average."BTW, are you wearing a sweater or a blouse?"

"Good question. You never decided, remember? When you get around to finishing that story, however, I'd like a sweater. Cashmere. Bright yellow." And off she walked, or ambled, or cavorted. I haven't made up my mind.

So have your characters ever organized and confronted you? If they did what would they complain or applaud about your writing plan, or like in my case, non-plan? You might consider how you'll handle what I just had to because it can be very touchy. Once they turn on you, you could be in serious trouble.


  1. I can completely relate to this. Mine have not confronted me en masse. Mine simply do what they want to do. Shawn, for instance, is supposed to be turning over a new leaf, but it is simply not in his nature to quit making sarcastic and snide comments. Another character is supposed to be winning over a woman, but he deals with every crisis by turning and walking away, literally.

  2. Wow, this sounds like me. I've started and stopped so many stories. I always imagine my characters frozen in time where I left them like, "Hey, are you ever coming back to finish us?"

  3. Yup - my characters have ganged up on me too. In this ms I wasn't writing the story the way they wanted, so they just dug in their heels and refused to move. It took me weeks to figure out they were right!

  4. Hey, have your characters been having a little powow with my characters? Because this very same thing has happened to me quite recently...

  5. I love this post! I think you have a book there, in itself, called "The Day My Characters Confronted Me" ... just what you don't need, another idea, right!?! Great to know another creative soul with ideas sprouting around everywhere. Sending you some strong writing energy this morning!

  6. Thanks for the support and understanding. It's wonderful to know I'm not out here alone! Let's hope our characters don't unionize.


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