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Characters that refuse to obey

June 19, 2008

“Alina’s Gambit” has surpassed the 70k word mark, and we’re bearing down on page 300.  CJ is officially done with the school year, so she has more time to devote to editing and rewrites.  She was terribly excited about getting to work on TheNovel, and what she’s cranked out so far really takes the manuscript up a notch.

Laurell K. Hamilton has mentioned at least a couple of times on her blog how the protagonist in the “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” series, Anita Blake (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) would sometimes hijack the scene that Laurell was writing.  She would set the scene up, put Anita in it, and Anita would just run with it – sometimes in a direction very different than what Laurell had envisioned.  I always thought that was such an odd predicament for the writer to be in.  How can the character not do what the writer writes?  I think I found one possible answer to that question.

I had a scene in mind since the early days of the novel, and had it all planned out how the scene would further the plot, develop the characters, clean up the oceans, provide free energy to the world, etc, etc, etc.  Last week it came time to put that scene down on paper.  In the scene, Alina (the protagonist of “Alina’s Gambit”; you didn’t see that one coming either, did you?) would forward an idea of what to do next, and her three friends were going to try to talk her out of it.  Alina’s logic was going to prevail, and away we would go.

Except that Alina’s friends turned out to be more persuasive than Alina.

The problem, you see, was that Alina’s idea was a little on the illegal side, and if they were caught it would destroy all of the hard work Alina and her three friends had put in so far.  I spent over a day stuck at that point, trying to give Alina a strong enough argument to counter the friends’, but I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t find a reason that was good enough to justify breaking the law.  I had set up the four characters to be good people who occasionally make mistakes, not ones who intentionally set out to  do wrong.  If I wrote the scene like I had originally intended, it would be so far out of character for the four that I was worried that the reader just wouldn’t buy it.  The characters didn’t exactly hijack the scene, but they were quite vocal about where the line is drawn.

I think I understand a little better now what Laurell meant, and how it isn’t such an odd predicament after all.

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