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Writer or Observer?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Antaus, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. Antaus

    Antaus Minstrel

    A lot of people talk about writing stories and developing characters, although for me personally, over the years some of these characters have taken on a life of their to the point sometimes they don't even need my input. Something will happen in a story and I'm like 'Oh really?' and decide to investigate. Other times my characters will almost boot me upside the head with an update I didn't even know was coming. Really there are times I feel like I'm not even really writing anything, I'm just documenting the lives of these people.

    It's like the world itself fully exists already and it's up to me as the writer to explore it and detail everything for the readers. In this regard one might ask well then what about when a writer rewrites something, well, if you think about it, in a way it's almost like looking into another world. Sometimes the reception is a little fuzzy and we have to think real hard to make sure we get all the 'facts' straight.
  2. SD Stevens

    SD Stevens Scribe

    Most certainly observer! My characters like to send me subliminal messages too! I hate it when one takes MY story and wants it another way but they always get their own way.

    In some senses these worlds are real! They are very real in your head. I have the nasty habit of putting a little too much (ok a lot too much) description into my work, I'm not leaving enough for the readers imagination! Sod them! It's my world, my characters they are not allowed to see it any other way than I want them too. [emoji6]

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I think there's something to this theory.

    I ran into a fan of a MS writer last year and she was telling me about how she felt about his series and how when the characters did a certain thing...yadda yadda. It was almost like she was talking about her group of friends doing something that she heard about. I think if you can convey that feel to readers, you're made! By keeping the reader engaged in characters and their journeys, you accomplish that mysterious yet ultimate goal of captivating the reader and makign them forget for a short time that they're actually reading a book.
  4. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    Observer - but one who can meddle.

    Characters will do what they want - that's true - so I've found I have to find ways of making that difficult - or even impossible for them. Sometimes I have to make it seem impossible for myself as well - just to make it suitably difficult for them to be themselves.
    Eventually they/you figure out what should happen.
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator


    I never really think of caracters relaying their lives through me. They do as they're told, and I make terrible things happen to them, constantly putting them under threat of death. Why would they want to talk to someone who treats them so poorly?

    For my writing, I agree with Nabokov when he said:
    "My characters are galley slaves."

    *Note: I'm not comparing myself to Nabokov.

    The entirety of his correspondence containing that quote dealt with authors stating how their characters go off on their own, doing their own things. Here it is:

    I can only speak for myself though. I have no idea how another writer creates, how they might interact mentally with their creations, or what processes their mind uses.
  6. Panda

    Panda Troubadour

    In On Writing, Stephen King compares writing a story to being an archeologist digging up fossils. The story's already there, you just have to dig it up out of your mind.

    I like that metaphor. I've had stories running around in my head for years that I haven't put much conscious effort into. I'll be in the shower or falling asleep at night or something and my daydreams start telling me a story. It's not like I'm some unlimited fountain of stories, though. I'll sometimes find myself "writing" and "rewriting" the same story, whether I want to or not. I've only recently started trying to actually write them down, hoping I can make some of them finally feel finished.

    Editing, on the other hand, is so much of a conscious effort it feels almost physically exhausting. Editing's when you have to think about the possibility that someone else might read when you wrote. It's when you have to step back and say "How can I change this so someone other than me would like it?" I'm hoping I'll get better at it with practice.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I'm a little of both. The more I write, the better the feel I get for either letting the reins go or pulling them back.

    I think of my characters as wind-up toys with motors that I designed. I wind them up and let them go, but when one of them does something I don't like, I have no qualms about ripping them apart and redesigning the motor. But I always leave room for happy accidents.
  8. Antaus

    Antaus Minstrel

    All of these answers have been quite interesting to say the least.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I've never understood the trope about characters acting on their own, or about stories pre-existing. I suppose the architect claims the building already existed and he merely laid it out in AutoCAD. It just seems silly and anyway, I work very, very hard at making my stories make sense. I come away feeling like I not only built the building, I smelted the steel and grew the trees.

    That said, I recognize others are quite certain the stories pre-exist and their characters run wild. I recognize it, but it is utterly foreign to me. I mean, are the characters still darting about during final edits? Or is editing somehow not writing? *shakes head in bewilderment*

    -= Skip =-
  10. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

    I tend to agree with Skip here. I am the one putting together the story, and the characters are one of the materials I'm building it out of. Now, sure, characters have certain ways that they tend to react to certain things. But if I need character X to do thing Y, then I'll just manipulate the circumstances until that is the thing that they would do. Sometimes this means having to manipulate other circumstances in order to get other characters into the right places to get character X to do the thing. Because of this, I would liken writing more to completing a jigsaw puzzle than building something. Everything needs to fit together just right; that's the art.

    Getting a little more thoughtful, for me I think this comes out of a big history of role-playing. I know a lot of people approach role-playing as "this is my character, I will do my things and respond to the story!" but I've always favoured more of a collaborative writing approach. So I've spent a lot of time saying to my playing partners, "Hey, what do we want to achieve in this scene? Let's talk about how to get our characters to achieve that." And also saying things like, "If your guy does that, my guy's going to do this or this. Which do we prefer?" So I'm used to the idea of the character giving me finite choices, but the overall choice being mine.
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I tend to fall into the "writer" camp. It's not characters that have taken on a life or their own in my case. It's usually my imagination going wild that makes it sometimes seem like the characters have come to life. And I think that's ideally what you want to feel as a writer and a reader. That these are real people with real problems. But to me that comes from a writer having a great deal of skill to make give you that suspension of disbelief. This is the same reason some people write fan fiction: it's because a world or characters have taken on a larger than life quality that they want to be a part of again and again.

    For me, that feeling that the characters have taken on a life of their own usually means, "OK, I'm doing something right. Everything is clicking." But in the end, if I want a character to do something, he or she is going to do it. Otherwise they can stay in the "Incomplete Novel" sad pile with their friends.

    On the flip side, there are parts in my fiction when I have a character doing something I feel they wouldn't do. Instead of saying, "OK, this character has her own mind. Let's she what she does" I say, "Wait a minute. This doesn't make sense. You went on and on about wanting to be a dragon rider this whole story and now suddenly you want to be a pirate? So this whole story was pointless?"

    I do get what people saying about letting their characters take on their own lives, but give yourself more credit. You made them like that.
  12. SD Stevens

    SD Stevens Scribe

    It's not that the characters run wild and don't do what you want. It's sometimes the story goes a different way than you first thought. Giving your characters life means different things to different people. They may have another way to get to the end goal. A relationship may develop in a totally unexpected way. It's simply a different way of putting things over.

    Word of the day for me must be different!!

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  13. Panda

    Panda Troubadour

    No, editing's when I take what my imagination crapped out and try to turn it into something readable. It's basically the opposite of writing a rough draft.

    I'm very, very new to writing, though. I may look back at this years from now and wonder WTF I was thinking. I'm looking forward to seeing how my writing process evolves.

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