Maybe Behave

A character may behave in any number of ways. Although as the writer I should have final say. Right?

Some writers believe characters take control of the story. Other writers are quite sure they’ve got the characters under their thumb. Or keyboard as the case may be.

And sometimes it seems that each type of writer suspects the other type of lying or maybe not even being very good.

Since I can’t be in your brain, I have to trust you know how yours works. Not that I’d be able to make any sense of it were I in there. I can’t figure out my own most of the time.

Anyway. For story number five I have a main character who I don’t like very much. And I couldn’t not figure out what to do with him at the end, and he wasn’t telling me anything–probably knew better, the weasel. But I want him to be sympathetic or maybe understandable to readers. Hmmm. He doesn’t behave. Nor is he as bad as he could be.

And the girl–what is with her?

Have you ever written characters your ambivalent about? Is that a problem? How much should you, do you, like your characters and why?

8 thoughts on “Maybe Behave

  1. I write strange and off-putting characters all the time. Secretly, I like them, though: at least on the page, even if I wouldn’t in real life.

    I am really looking forward to checking out your stories – once this durned May challenge is over with! In the meantime, it’s great to know I have comrades on this bumpy, super fun road.

    1. I love strange, off-putting characters! And I usually like all the characters I write about. This time though, I kind of sort of based this one on someone I once knew. My goal, too, was to understand the real person I once knew, not to make him a bad guy. That’s where I think I had trouble. And I can’t tell if I made the character sympathetic to readers or not. For all I know, readers will think he’s the one being treated badly or that he’s just a bore.

      And yes–it is great to know others on this crazy road.

  2. Hi! And thanks for stopping by the intro to the Women Creating Success series on my blog!

    This post really strikes a chord. I’ve always been most inspired by characters I don’t particularly like. Characters who bug me in some way. Writing them enables me to figure out what that’s all about, and to get inside their minds to ultimately come to terms with who they are. As a result, the characters are often at least somewhat unlikeable — unfortunately, not a very marketable choice.

    I blogged about it in this post called, appropriately, “love to hate them:”

    1. Thanks for stopping by here too. I left a comment on the other post. But on further thought, it seems that I don’t mind not liking my characters, but it makes it harder to figure out what to do with the unlikable ones. And I mean really unlikable ones, not just the sympathetic but flawed. Important to consider!

  3. The last project I started, a ghost story, had a pretty neat concept. I wrote 5-6k words during last Nanowrimo and I just couldn’t stay interested. I finally figured out it was because I didn’t resonate with my two main characters. They weren’t very nice to each other, and they didn’t have any individual redeeming qualities to overcome that. But more importantly, they weren’t coming from inside me.

    As I thought about other projects I realized I always start with the characters, and in particular the relationships between them, romantic or otherwise. If I don’t have a good sense of that, I can’t manufacture it. And this starting with the relationships might have something to do with my plots falling flat.

    So I don’t think you need to like your characters, but you do need to resonate with them in some way.

    1. If I don’t like my character, they probably resonate with me–because I’m having a reaction to them, they’re pushing a button somewhere. I’ve had characters that don’t resonate, and that usually means they aren’t much of anything. Also a factor is if I’ve based the character on someone I know in the real world. If the character is fictional (though maybe with a few traits of a real person thrown in) I don’t have trouble with what happens to them. This is why I rarely base a character on someone in my life.

  4. I’ve got a minor character in the WIP I don’t like very much — in fact, he sort of resembles the guy in your latest story. Rather fancies himself a bit more than he fancies the woman he’s with, y’know? But (like your character) he’s not a BAD person. He serves one purpose — to highlight or summon up an ambivalence felt by a main woman character. He does that and then disappears into the woodwork, with only a couple of later sightings to remind her (and the reader) of what SHE is like.

    (Of course, that’s one of the “luxuries” of writing a novel or longer story instead of a short one: you can bring someone into a scene for the purpose of the scene but more or less ignore him/her afterward.)

    One of the easiest characters to write, in this book, is the real honest-to-God antagonist. He is such a weasel. Not particularly good at being a weasel, mind you; he’s no Evil Genius. But it’s a lot of fun to write about somebody who just doesn’t give a rip.

    Oh, and btw, I’m in the “I’m not interested in micro-managing my characters” camp. I much prefer to understand them well enough that when they walk into a particular room with Event X in progress, all I have to do is record their actions. Always surprising. I love surprises like that.

  5. the writ and the wrote

    I have a WIP in which I am fully ambivalent about the characters. I have 20+ pages written, but haven’t touched it in months because I’m not in love with my characters. I really need to get back to it, but there are so many other projects on my plate and this one simply isn’t taking priority.

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