Swoon Author Cindy Anstey: Publishing Confessional – It's Not My Fault
A post in which Cindy Anstey discusses dealing with the challenges of pushy characters
There are times when I feel I have no control over my books. Before you ask, no, it has nothing to do with revising. It’s my characters; they are so demanding! They want to tell the story their way. I’m allowed to follow behind and record… but not interfere!
The first time I heard a writer talk about his characters taking over the plot, I thought he was exaggerating… or a little loopy. (Which still might be true… but I digress) And then it happened to me. I expected my character (Spencer from Love, Lies and Spies) to be insulted by a comment but, instead, he slapped his friend on the back and they shared a laugh. I deleted and started again… once more guffaws not glares were the order of the day.
“Do what you are told!” I insisted. But my indignation was for naught. No matter how many times I deleted and rewrote, Spencer behaved in a way that was true to his nature… the one that I had given him. He wasn’t easily insulted. No, I had imbued him with humor and confidence. Of course, he would take a comment—even a caustic comment—in stride.
When I develop a character, I think long and hard about her (or his) personality. I look at her family, and their interactions (even if the family never appears in the book). What is her social position, her expectations, wishes, wants, secret desires… what makes her melancholy? Is she self-focused or altruistic? Eventually, my character steps into the open and… walks away.
And from then on, I stand in the background and watch. Yes, my plot is in place (I am not a pantser) but it is written out with the expectation that it will change. And it does. If you stay true to the characters as you have developed them, they will guide the way and take you on the journey.