My characters have a mind of their own.
We hear this all the time. As writers, we think: Yeah, mine too. Pesky bastards. Non-writers think: These people deserve a straight jacket and padded room. So maybe I should explain when I say my characters kicked me in the shins and forced the story in another direction.
First, I’m not nuts. (OK, maybe I’m nuts but it’s not because I hear pretend people speak to me.)
Second, consider lying.
It starts out innocent enough. Someone asks you to watch their dog for the weekend—the same dog that peed on your rug last time, leaving a dark dribble mark you’ll never be able to walk barefoot over again—and you say, “I’d love to but I’m busy.”
Then things spiral out of control. Soon you’re explaining how you’re going out of town to help your mother clean her house because your father hurt his hip while cleaning out the gutters. Oh, and did you know that your mother’s house is extra messy because she’s been babysitting your sister’s illegitimate child for a month. And that child isn’t potty trained.
You get the idea. The lie takes on a life of its own, and before you know it you no longer have to watch your neighbor’s dog—though you do have to explain to your 15-year-old sister why she’ll be getting a gift box of diapers in the mail.
That’s how it works when you’re writing a story. Things happen you didn’t foresee. Characters do things you never intended for them to do. Your mind twists and turns until the story is alive.
Non-writers: That’s what writers are talking about.
In other words: We lie. A lot.
Do you guys find your characters push your plot in directions you’ve never imagined? And, truthfully, does it work like a lie for you or do they, um, really speak?