I know I’ve read a hundred articles, blogs and comments about how writers create characters for their books, but it’s Friday and my mind has been rolled over gravel this week. I simply don’t see things like normal people. Granted, it might have nothing to do with a challenging seven days, it might be the norm for me, but for this particular experiment, let’s just pretend it’s unusual.
Let me start with a few questions. First, have you ever really created a character? I mean seriously? From head to toe, heart to flesh? Or, have you gotten so far and the character goes into rebellion and insists he or she is something else. I envisioned Michael Becker, the main character in Blind in the Light, to be a smallish man with thinning hair. He said no. Later, in the second book, Carrying Heaven (unfinished), I wrote that he lost his right leg. Michael said oh hell no, it was his left leg and no matter how many times I read through it and correct it, I keep typing “left”.
What does this tell me about Michael Becker? And more importantly, (for those of you in the psychiatric biz) what does this tell me about me?
At any given time I, like every other writer I know, have more than fifteen unique and different characters inside my head. They come from various eras and various genres. Some are human, some are superhuman, some are supernatural. Many are affected by paranormal activities and/or awareness. Alicia (The Magnolia Men’s Club) is an unenthusiastic time traveler who started today and ended up in a 1905 erotic, Victorian male dominated world. Crudo Cushman (Cold in California) is a dead troll earning his pass through the pearly gates by managing a West Hollywood holding tank for other dead supernatural creatures. Luc and Gabe (Sympathy for the Devil) are slipping the bonds of time and dimension and exploring their influence on the history of American through our national pastime, Baseball. And by the way, Gabe is the Angel Gabriel and Luc is … yes … Lucifer himself.
There are more. Characters, characters shouting and jostling each other inside my brain. Miribella Patients see auras. Don Carson is a soul eater. Angela Menendez is a spiritual healer. More and more of them keep coming too, shouting for my attention and telling me what they are, what they can do and what they look like. As the author, the only control I have is deciding which story they’ll be part of, and even with that, they all have their own idea as to how to react to the stimuli around them. It’s like running a nursery sometimes, I swear!
Now for the big question … and you have to tell me truthfully. We all have a plot plan, we all know where we want our story to go. Cross your heart and hope to slip on a crack that breaks your protagonist’s back … tell the truth. Do you really control the plan? The outline? The strategic plot? Or, like me, do you start with a sound plan and discover that your characters have another idea all together? Ideas that strangely … always … improve the scene, plot or novel as a whole? Are we really the conductor of the symphony in our head? Are we the storytellers, or the typists?