Thursday, June 17, 2010

When Good Characters Go Bad (aka Character Backlash - Part Trois)

Alrighty, here is the second part of my story, continued from Tuesday's post. Before we get into it though, I just wanted to point out a few things as I think there might have been some confusion.

So in Monday's post, I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my MC's in my current MS - this story I am posting here is a little exercise that I did over the weekend as my way of getting reacquainted with them - only I found that they had changed and I no longer recognized them. They are upset with me because I abandoned them and haven't been writing for a while. The narrator in the story is me interacting with my characters :) I hope that clears things up a little and provides some more background--I'm sorry if it was too ambiguous.

What Happened - Part 2

“Wait!” I scream it, my words slicing through the thick air with little effect, like a dull knife.

The street lamps above my head are flickering, and frantically, plunging forward as though I am caught in a kaleidoscope of incomplete dreams, I dash after them.

“Wait! Don’t go!”


I run and run, until I am out of breath, and my side is cramping. I cannot catch up with them. I stumble, unable to keep moving. I have to face the truth.

I can no longer see them. The lights go out, and I am hurled into a dismal abyss. What am I to do now?

I stifle a scream when I feel the hand on my shoulder.

“We’re still here,” she says calmly. I hear a grunt of disapproval from her left.

I grasp her fingers blindly. “You came back!”

“Yes,” she responds. “I want to give you another chance. You deserve another chance. He has agreed.”

“She doesn’t deserve it—she’s being honored with it.”

I nearly sob with relief. “Thank you! I promise this time—”

“No,” she cuts me off. “What you must understand is that things are different. Nothing can be the same. A lot of time has passed.”

“I understand...” But really, I don’t.

“We won’t wait around again,” he adds, his tone hollow. “We can’t do it again.”

“Take your time,” she adds, her own voice gentler, “but don’t leave. Don’t give up on us. You need to believe. Promise me.”

“I promise,” I swear fervently, desperately. I need them. They need me.

“Then open your eyes and begin again,” the lights are flickering once more.

“What’s happening?” I feel like I’m yelling, but the words are barely a whisper.

They are circling me, closing in and pushing through the brick wall that surrounds me, interjecting themselves into my mind, leaving their imprint.

I exhale and slowly open my eyes, finally able to see…

The End

And on that note - my characters and I are back on agreed terms - I can't say good, because I'm not sure they are as yet. It's almost as if I need to reestablish their trust. They will let me write about them, but I need to commit to it and to them, something I have resolved to do. On the other hand, I do feel like I've awoken from a bad dream.

This was an interesting exercise - I've never done something quite like this, but I found it was very useful.

What about you? Have you ever tried such a writing exercise? What sort of things do you do when your characters start acting up?


JustineDell said...

Okay, first I feel like a dope. I didn't realize the story was of your and your characters working out the issues. I thought it was the story you were having issues with. Gah!

In that case, it makes lots more sense and is funny. I'll have to go back and read the other two with this new information!

I've never tried something like this, but I might in the future if my wip is giving me a hard time.

Glad you finally got those characters back on track! ;-)


Aubrie said...

I like the line, " leaving their imprint..."

A lot of times my secondary characters try to steal the show. It's really hard for me to quiet them down! I have to refocus on my MC at that point and try to keep her interesting.

Anonymous said...

YOu should join us on Writer's Digest!! Lots of fun and support with the groups : )

WritingNut said...

Justine - It hit me when people were posting comments about not knowing the MC, and I was like, "waaaaiiit a minute" - I'm sorry for the confusion! It was an interesting exercise.

Aubrie - Thanks so much! Don't you hate that? Sometimes we have to remind our characters of what they're supposed to be doing :)

Bekah - Thanks! I've been meaning to join the forum - I joined Absolute Write, and that one is great too!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Wow, what a great exercise. I've never tried anything like this, it looks like fun.
Glad you got your character mojo back. :)

WritingNut said...

Lindsay - It was! Thanks so much for the kind words :)

Melissa said...

Okay wow. I feel like I was being really, really stupid last time.

Oh well, you explaining that has given me a new perspective on this. I really think these characters are really interesting.

One line that really stood out to me? the kaleidoscope of dreams one. It brought vivid images into my mind and I found it very lyrical. Maybe there's a way you can incorporate it into your actual MS?

I'm glad your at least agreeing with your characters again. I've never done any exercises like this before. They seem interesting but I'm not sure I could actually do any of them. My writing/characters don't work like that. I don't think anyway.

Jemi Fraser said...

My characters tend to run the show most of the time. When I argue with them and try to force them to go in other directions the writing tends to suffer. :)

WritingNut said...

Melissa - Don't feel that way at all! I wasn't being clear - I'm sorry - I think I managed to confuse everyone. I know what you mean - mine don't usually work like that either - I hope you never become as far removed as I did though.

Jemi - I hear you! That's exactly what happened with me. They were literally telling me this was it and I had no right to try to own them anymore. It's amazing what goes on in your mind once you start writing.

Janet Johnson said...

I'm coming in second half, but how fun! I've never duked it out with my characters. Yet.

Thanks for stopping by and following!

WritingNut said...

Janet - Thank you for reciprocating!

Anonymous said...

You deserve an award for all your hard work! Hop on over to my blog, where it will be eagerly waiting! :D

Lately I haven't been doing a whole lot of work on my MS, but I have written a blog post (which I will put out on Saturday) that features the POV of one of my literary characters. That right there is the only writing exercise I've ever really done. It's definitely kept me in the mind of my MC.

As for your passage, you've got a lot of lines that I'm scheming over how best to steal... Like "kaleidoscope of incomplete dreams" for one... I agree with Melissa that you should get it in your actual MS!

Anonymous said...

See, that's why I have the pictures and things. SO I know them and can focus...sometimes it helps...others not so much. LOL!!!

notesfromnadir said...

I really like this imaginative blog entry. Yes, characters can go by the wayside. I usually figure they were meant to.

Also, Bekah has a good idea in that she has pictures. That can be a great asset for any novelist.

WritingNut said...

Amanda - Aww - thank you so much! :) That post sounds really cool, I can't wait. You know, I never thought about putting it into the MS - something to consider!

Bekah - I really like how you associate your characters with pictures - I think I might try it!

Lisa - Thank you! It sort of just evolved on its own. I know - your characters are like your kids - you can't make them do anything.