The problem with my character

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By now I’ve indulged the fiction (and poetry) part of my writing bug for several years. Along the way I’ve attended workshops and talks by other writers. Among the pet peeves that many writers share is the character, or sometimes more than one character, that decides he or she has a different story to tell. One friend had a minor character in one story demand that he have a bigger role to play ‘next time’. The poor author had to create another whole new book before the character would shut up.

Here we are as authors, going through checklists that include the character’s name, where he or she lives, their loves, phobias and hates. Hitting Google, like one possessed to ensure that the ‘time’ in which we frame our story and character are properly represented. We consider issues like, “What would destroy your character?” And after agonising over this, reducing ourselves to tears, (because said character has now taken residence in our hearts), we need to think about, “How does your character feel about his or her father/ mother, does he/she need friends, defining strengths, whether a team player or a loner…” A plethora of other considerations come into play.

Just when we think we have the character kind of settled in a general sort of way, they look at us, (for me it’s usually in the dead of night, when I think okay it’s time for bed), or nudge us.

“Not now, dear,” Character whispers, “I don’t like my reaction to that incident.”

“I’ll fix it tomorrow,” I say heaving a sigh and hitting the power button on the computer.

“No. You’ll forget.”

“I won’t,” I declare aloud and hope my husband doesn’t get up and ask me whom I’m talking to.

So I’m brushing my teeth and doing other pre-bed do-dahs, when it sneaks up behind me and looks at me in the mirror. “It won’t take long, just a little tweak, you can’t do this to me, that’s not me, please…”

I sigh. “Okay, okay…”

It’s back to the computer. Re-read the paragraph, re-read the chapter, go back to the beginning of the story… Fix. Change. Juggle. “Hmmm, Character was right, it is better this way.”

Now the character is quiet. He’s gone to sleep, but I need to quieten my mind. So I go off to this website I’m trying to manage and see if something else can be changed. In the process I send an email to the friend who’s helping me get the website together. By now it’s 2:30a.m. I manage to wake up at 8:30am six hours’ sleep is good enough.

What does my friend say when he emails me back, “Don’t you ever sleep?”

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