Saturday, May 25, 2013

When your characters surprise you

Of all the cool things about writing, one of the coolest has to be when one of your own characters surprise you. I don't know how many times I've watched Alexi, Kassander or Pharos say or do something I wasn't expecting at all. What's really disturbing is how often what they did was much better than what I'd been planning. Freaky! Not Ury, though. I have to work hard on him. I think of the worst of the bullies I knew in high school and imagine what they'd do.
A Russian author - Dostoyevsky, perhaps? - said "My characters are automatons." Meaning, I suppose, that they did what he said, not that they were emotionless cutouts, although perhaps that's true too. I'm sure there are plenty of authors who would mock an author whose characters got away from him and went off for the occasional night on the town, and perhaps they're right. It's pretty silly to imagine characters having an independent existence from the author who writes them. But that's the way it seems, sometimes.
What's really going on? Either I'm channelling some long-dead author (a good one, let's hope) or these thoughts are bubbling up from my subconscious and escaping out my fingers without, so far as I can tell, checking in with my brain. Meh. I'll take either, as long as it works.