when characters attack… and one other thing

You’ve written the bios. You’ve completed an outline for your story. All the pieces are in place. Then your characters turn against you.

It happens sometimes, and it’s a good thing. It means you’re in the zone. It feels that way, anyway, like the scene is writing itself. And in a way, the characters are also writing themselves. You’ve created something good, something real. The characters feel authentic and living, and they begin to behave that way, whether you want them to or not.

I am pretty good at creating an outline. I sort of excelled at making them. Then came a period when I stopped doing outlines and just wrote on the fly. Most of my scripts during film school were produced without any kind of outline beforehand. Since I’ve been working on a manuscript, though, I’ve depended heavily on an outline. It’s reassuring.

I had never written a character sketch before film school. Those classes taught me how important it was to know your (main) characters’ ins-and-outs. What they want, what they like, what they look like, where they come from, everything. After I started getting into that habit, writing my characters became much easier. They really did seem to start writing themselves, and for the most part, I was okay with that.

Sometimes, though, your character goes off on a tangent you didn’t expect and you’re not really sure you like. It’s happened to me a couple times. A few of the characters in my book have taken unexpected turns. Maybe it’s best for the story. It definitely seems like the most organic result. I’m working with a writing buddy on a script, and we’ve been surprised a couple times by our characters. It’s not a terrible thing. But it may require some adjustments to the story elsewhere.

On another topic.

Unfortunately, time got away from me, and I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to get done with my search for an agent. I did lock in two choices, but as I reviewed my query letter again, I somehow turned it into a mess. Not sure how. But I did. It’s a mess. So I’m definitely going to spend the next few days trying to work that out. One of the agents I’m going to query also requires a synopsis. I have one, but it’s not very good. It meets the basic requirements. It synopsizes the story by scenes, but it’s not really a compelling read, and I think a good synopsis needs to also communicate my writing style. So… that’s gonna take a little work, too.

So new goal for the end of this week! Finish my new query letter. Send it out to at least one agent–the one that doesn’t require the synopsis.


One thought on “when characters attack… and one other thing

  1. […] to what a colleague of mine posted recently about characters taking on a life of their own. See fireflyin’s post) and believing that I have something to say and I’m responsible for that knowledge and I […]

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