Hey, Friends! How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was great! Mine definitely was. Now I need a break from the break! Isn't that always how it goes?
This week we're going to talk about characters, but with a twist. You see, the week before Thanksgiving I puppysat for some friends. I love their sweet little boy. He looks a lot like the ottoman on Beauty and the Beast, with a swirl of long black and white fur and thick, snowy paws. His tail curls over his backside like a DQ ice cream cone, his eyes are slightly unfocused in that sweet "puppy" look, and his precious underbite is more adorable than pirahna-like. At five months old, his puppy belly still jiggles, he still goes limp when tired, and the puppy breath is beginning to fade. He's also highly active, doesn't need as much sleep, and tries to chew/bite everything. With a particular penchant for leaves, going outside is less to do business than it is to play, something that drove me crazy because I couldn't get anything done.
Sometime in all the running about, declaring things like: "Good boys don't bite" and trying to coax him into cuddling (he seems to think that my favorite activity in the world is playing--same as my poodle--which, for the record is just not so), I realized that he was teaching me a lot about characters, even though he just thought he was making me crazy.
The first thing he taught me was that he had a mind of his own. You see, I had a grand plan for the week I stayed at my friends' house. I planned to edit to my heart's content, work on my other projects, and even start writing my WIP again. I mean, I had a week of nothing to do but write. Paradise, right?
Well, the first four days went by with no writing. Why? Because Roi (pronounced like "Roy") had his own plans for the day involving his girlfriend (a stuffed dog), tennis balls, his squeaky monkey, chewing the furniture, hiding under the furniture, and of course, the aforementioned leaves outside. None of those plans included a nap, my favorite activity of the day. Roi wouldn't let me work. He wanted to play and even when he didn't want to play, he wanted to wreak havoc. He had to be with me everywhere I went--and I mean everywhere--and didn't want me on the computer at all.
At first, I was really frustrated. But you know what? He was letting me into his life, into his own world--a world full of adventure, fierce conflict (or you'd think it by his growls), and simple pleasures--like froclicking in the leaves outside. He had his own ideas, his own instincts, and separate desires. He wasn't like any other dog I've ever known. He was his own "person".
The same is true with our characters. Sometimes it's hard to remember that they are their own people with completely separate desires, ideas, needs, and personalities. Often I forget, and it's only after being stuck in a scene with no idea what's going to happen--and being bored myself-- that I realize the character might have something important--and entirely different-- to say. It's when we reliquish control of the reins, given them their "head", and allow them to freedom to move, to breathe, to speak that their stories come to life. After all, we aren't telling our stories. We're telling theirs'. And while our stories might be bound up with theirs', it's not our turn to speak. Our turn will come. But when it's their time, we need to be willing to completely enter their world--and see where this completely different person will take us.
It wasn't fair for me to expect Roi to be like me, my poodle, or anyone else (dog or person) I've ever known. I had to let him be who he is--a precious, very energetic shih tzu.
What about you? Do you need to let your characters loose?
8 hours ago