Home > Books, WIP, Writing > When characters run amok

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?!)

  1. John Erickson
    August 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    You’re doing the right thing. You will be AMAZED where your characters lead you. One particular gent I know was just going to assassinate a political leader, and ended up that group’s best combat leader. Heck, I managed to misplace an entire PLANET, based on somebody mis-firing an experimental weapon! If only I had listened to the technicians …… 😀

    • August 9, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Your comments are magic, John. MAGIC! 😀

      Where do I get this book?

      • John Erickson
        August 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm

        Oh, to paraphrase a certain sci-fi saying, “A long time from now, in a galaxy far, far away.” Which could serve as a capsule summary, as well! 😀

  2. August 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Characters refusing to pay attention is a problem I don’t yet have as most of mine still live in my head and not the page, but when you wrote “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 completely understood. I have been known to say to perfectly nice people “I get it! What’s next.” I’m working on this, too.

    • August 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      I am so, so heartened to hear it’s not just me. Recently I’ve taken to calling people back and saying, “I’m sorry. I really would like to know how you’re doing!” I like to think that someday I’ll do that up front, nearly 100% of the time. 😀

  3. G M Barlean
    August 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I love it when characters introduce themselves to us. It’s cool.

    • August 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      When I’m not in the act of writing, I love it. When I’m actually sitting down and writing, I can be found throwing my hands in the air and asking, “How the heck did I spend 30 minutes writing only one-eighth of that scene?!” It really is an adventure, though. I love getting to know these new people more intimately than I will know almost anyone whose path crosses my own in life.

      • G M Barlean
        August 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm

        So true. I was in a restaurant today and thought about how I wanted to write all the little conversations people were having around me…but the thought of having a conversation doesn’t appeal nearly as much! How messed up am I?! I’m Writer-messed-up, that’s what I am!

  4. August 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I imagine that the characters who introduce themselves gain a dimension or two by so doing. I will be fascinated to see the outcome.

  5. August 9, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Waiting it out is probably good advice. When this happens to me, my characters often talk about clothes/shoes and the act of putting them on/taking them off. I never talk about that! Weird characters.

  6. August 10, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Your are blessed my friend with a creative mind. I felt the excitement and your passion as I imagined all those characters running in your thoughts, evolving into words, then stories, then into pages. Wow!

  7. August 10, 2012 at 4:18 am

    I think you’re doing the right thing – go where you heart wants you to. Sounds really exciting, good luck with it!

  8. August 10, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I can’t believe you can just sit down and write a book with a story, with dialogue and everything. It just sounds so intimidating to me. I’ve got an idea, but I just can’t sit down and do it. You’re my hero, Deb!

  9. August 10, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I always have to fight the urge to edit as I go. I cannot go back and read anything I have written until I am done otherwise the second guessing and the horror and the I cut something I really needed and now I can’t write it that way again is soul crushing. So good for you for letting the words and talking flow.

  10. August 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

    That’s my favorite stage of a writing project – when the characters start talking for themselves.

  11. August 10, 2012 at 9:44 am

    You can’t create when you’re bored, can you, young lady?
    Good luck!

  12. August 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    It’s when they don’t talk you need to worry! Mine are talking nonstop not, too but I can’t seem to find the time to sit down to dictate. But they’re there, in the back of my mind, constantly chitchatting and whispering to me “Hey, you! Don’t forget about us!”

  13. August 11, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Well at least they aren’t giving themselves time-outs, turning their backs to you and sitting in corners!

  14. August 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Follow your instincts… the rest will come. 😉

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