Your Wants VS. Character Wants

Sam,

When writing, I come across this challenge of shelving my wants for what happens to the characters and the story for what should truly happen. I know I should put aside my personal feelings for the plot, but I find it hard.

My imagination is constantly generating alternate possibilities for which route the story ought to take. Often it causes me to take a little longer to get to sleep at night yet keeps me productive when I’m at work or doing mundane things. I don’t have to question myself when I eventually do find the deepest channel to direct my story’s flood because I’ve quite literally thought of every option I could take. One can hope this remains true.

Despite this thorough vetting of possibility, I still have to steady my hand when my characters are faced with a tough decision or in an intense situation that will define their personality. Sometimes, I want to take the easy way and make everything okay. But as we know, there is no story without conflict. Sometimes, I want to take the most complicated way just to enjoy the chaos. But that can result in me getting twisted and frustrated, wondering why I started down this path in the first place. Either way, I end up abandoning either extremes in search of a compromising middle ground. 

It can be a tough thing trying to know the right way to tell your story. When I go from draft to draft, I usually end up changing significant parts of the plot or decision a character makes. Ordinarily this happens because I become a different writer in the newest draft compared to the previous one. I learn something new in my personal life or come to some amazing realization about the story that I have to include it. Hearing this, it may sound like no writer ever gets anything done because we’re always thinking of new ways to challenge our characters and our perception of the story. In short, to adapt and evolve. Good news is this isn’t the case. It may seem like an endless process, until you realize it takes time and (yes) a little planning to develop three dimensional characters. As drafts go by, what we think are setbacks whenever we change the story are actually us getting to know our characters better. I find this notion particularly hard to grasp because whenever I do tailor my story significantly, I feel like I’m taking two steps back instead of one step forward. I have had to keep telling myself that it all will make sense when it’s right. And I was right in telling myself that in the past; it did end up coming together to what I am working on now, and I couldn’t be prouder of my characters and the direction I am taking Project Stripes. Ultimately, we grow as the story grows.

I’m getting better at recognizing these temptations and consequently preventing my protective nature of the characters from intervening and let them learn from the conflicts they face that make the story. I have to know that creating adverse conditions for my characters will demonstrate my ability to let go and allow the story to take shape of its own accord. It will prove to my readers that I have surrendered to the wants of my characters, ready to let them come alive. When this happens, they teach me a thing or two about me that I didn’t know, until I write about it.

Writing demands us to learn on the go in a constant effort to create unique characters and stories relatable to our readers and even their creators. Having discipline enough to write with ease every time is a virtually unachievable goal. We all come to our own unique challenges during the writing process. These challenges shape our efforts in the development of the story and test our resolve to see it finished. This may give us reason enough to make the characters do what we want them to do. However, we must be wiser than this. We have to give our characters their own voice. If we truly care about telling real stories, we have to.

Cheers.

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