“I don’t control my character” – All writers say it, but what do they mean?

Control (Anomalies)200This is a guest post by Brittany K. Blair, author of “Control (Anomalies)“.

Brittany K. Blair is a twenty-seven-year-old author currently living in Texas with her fiancé, three dogs, and a cat. A former English major and avid reader, she is especially fond of dystopian worlds.

Blair’s debut novel was the contemporary romance Captivated, and her most recent work, Control, is the first installment of a thrilling new adult urban fantasy series, to be followed by the second installment in early 2017.

Brittany K. Blair

Author

I’ve gotten The Look before. Maybe you have too. That ‘are you being sarcastic or are you subtly implying schizophrenia’ look when I talk about my characters as though they’re real people instead of fictional people I made up inside my head. I, like most of the writers I know, tend to talk about characters as though they’re friends, as if I actually hang out with them, and I am simply writing their biography. I talk about my characters as if I am not creating everything from scratch. Most of the people I know that aren’t writers tend to silently question my sanity when they asked why something happened and I shrug (usually in irritation because usually it’s the exact opposite of what I wanted said character to do), only able to offer “No idea, I don’t control him.”

I wish I could tell them that I mean my characters secretly came to life so I could just watch them live instead of create everything; lord knows it would be easier. What I actually mean is more complicated: I mean these characters have come to life, but only within my head. Everyone experiences different people, different personalities and outlooks and all that fun stuff that makes us individuals and in non-writer cases, I assume it makes you more sympathetic toward different types of people and it ends there. With writers, all those personalities start to affect your characters. They start to take on personalities of their own and while you could technically write them a certain way- the way you intended, for instance- they start to develop personalities and intentions you didn’t foresee. Writing them the original way starts to feel wrong and awkward and after a while, you just can’t feel right writing them that way. It’s almost as if that character is sitting behind you as you write telling you “No, that did not happen.” and “You thought that but I decided to do this instead.”

For example: one of my main characters from the years is Cole. When I started the series he’s in, I had every intention of him being a good person. Someone who would do the right thing no matter the cost. For the first dozen scenes I wrote, he cooperated. He fell into that Good Guy role I wanted for him. Then I started writing him within his foster home, among his foster siblings and a new trait suddenly cropped up: caretaker. As I wrote, he felt more a caretaker than he did The Good Guy. It started to feel awkward to write him in a way that would harm, even in some small way, the people he cared for, even if it were for the greater good. If I let my imagination take over, and let myself imagine this (“new”) Cole in the situations I was trying to write, I learned the Cole forming in my imagination leaned toward moral ambiguity if it meant he’d protect those he cared for or felt he was responsible for. And that was how Cole started controlling his own actions, even without actually being a real live person; he didn’t come to life, but his fictional presence had started to affect me as though he had.