Keep calm and write on!

As it stands, between Charlotte and I we have over 300 characters.  Not all of these are main characters and a fair few will be NPC or secondary characters by the time we’re actually done with things.  Some of these characters have been with us since day one and others are only a matter of weeks old. Some are characters that have gone and come back and others have never really left us – no matter what we put them through.  And sometimes, sometimes we really do put them through the worst of things … but isn’t that what we, as writers, do to our characters?

The thing is, with our characters there are three very definite groups of them.

The new ones: the ones that haven’t quite figured out what they’re doing and think that we, as writers, are in charge and listen to us.

The My Story ones: the ones that know that they’re in charge and they are the ones who are driving the story.  And no matter what, if you want them to do something they don’t want to do … they won’t do it.

And finally …

The I am in Charge ones: the ones who not only know they’re in charge, but also know where you’ve gone wrong and what you’ve done over the past x years to mess everything up.  The ones that also then point out the flaws in the story and leave us, as writers, wondering how on earth we didn’t spot it …

And the last category of characters is easily the one which causes us the most problems.  Or well, they don’t cause us problems … they’re just always right and that gets a little infuriating.

It’s like trying to win an argument with your seven year old, when said seven year old knows they have you in a corner and pulls an argument out of their hat that you didn’t even see coming.  Trying to rationalise with them is about as easy as rationalising with some of our characters …

Which is where something as simple as a timeline comes into play.  I’m a self-confessed geek (something poor Charlotte has to put up with more often than not when we’re writing) and timelining is something that I enjoy.  It’s particularly satisfying when you have those pesky characters who remind you of facts and events and things like that which you may have forgotten … in these situations it’s a blessing.

But, not only that in the process of timelining you get to find some surprising things out.  Like the fact that somehow you’ve made character 1 much older than he feels when he writes, and yet his wife, character 2, writes and feels much older than he does … and suddenly the whole sordid past comes out, unravelling like a rug before our very eyes …

So yes, whilst we might curse our characters … they have pushed us into doing something that is really very useful, even if we’re reluctant to give them the praise for this!

Just sometimes, sometimes the only thing we can do as writers is keep calm and write on!

~ Clara

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