When characters run amok
I’m 12,000 words into a new writing project.
I know, I know. I’m supposed to be working on that autobiographical collection of essays.
I’ll just come clean and say it straight: That project was boring the heck out of me. I thought I’d start another project as a joke, but the joke’s on me, because that project’s got me wrapped around its little finger. (Just don’t ask me to pinpoint that “little finger” on a diagram, because I can’t!)
One thing about this project that’s bugging me is how much its characters talk.
I think, “OK, these guys have got to communicate X.” But when they get to talking, they don’t just talk about X. They talk about X, X’s little brother Pedro, Pedro’s crush on Georgia, and Georgia’s hometown in southeastern New Mexico, as well as the fauna particular to the area.
Like WALL-E‘s EVE and adorable little cleaning machine, I’m pretty objective-driven in real life. It’s not uncommon for me to obtain the information I need ten seconds into a conversation with someone and then actually ask questions like, “Wait, why are we still talking?” twenty seconds after that. (I’m getting better about this.)
The fact my project’s characters can’t stop talking is maddening. And yet, in an approach I should probably better emulate in real life, I let them talk. This is where I find out who they are. I can cut their conversations all I want later, but right now, they are telling me about themselves. It’s important. It’s good.
Yes, it’s slow, but it’s good. And I’m just going to sit here reminding myself of that. “It’s good. It’s all good. No, really, it’s good.”
(But, seriously, characters, why do you have to talk so much?!)