This week we're talking about character development using the analogy of my adventures puppy sitting. On Monday we talked about how our characters are their own "people" and Wednesday, about how important it is to look for the little moments and find the human side of our antagonists. Today we're going to talk about the most important rule: be prepared for anything.
I never knew what Roi was going to do. If he trotted off, tail bouncing happily, I only assumed that he was plotting something. If he disappeared for more than a few seconds, I had to find him. Though I could guess where he was (and the tell-tale bell sound of his collar usually led me right to him), I found him in some interesting predicaments. I had to block the stairs and the dining room, close off another room, and make sure he was far away whenever I opened the dishwasher. I had to plan my trips to the kitchen because he'd wake up from his nap at the sound of the ice maker and follow me, ready to get into more trouble as soon as he settled down and I went for a snack! I had to know that he would want to go outside as soon as the show I waited for all day was on tv, right after a commercial break ended--and it had to be right then--even if it was freezing and pouring rain. I had to be on the look out for toys and his own tiny body, to move the toilet paper (very tempting to play with) up high, and spray "Fooey" on every chewable surface. Of course, it turned out that he liked the stuff and no matter how careful I was, I ended up tasting it instead.
The same is true with our characters. Like we talked about on Monday, they are letting us into their stories. And if we truly let go and let them show us their lives, we need to be prepared for whatever they bring us--whether it's celebration, joy, chaos, or silence. In life, I'm highly detailed, a planner. I don't like chaos or spontenaity. It's so ironic because as a writer, I'm more of a panster than a plotter. I usually get one word or image for a chapter (this is only after I'm a few chapters into the actual story) and that's it. I've learned the hard way that even with that limited plan, my characters always take the story in another direction. And if I spend all of my time fretting over that plan, I'll miss what they are doing. Instead I just have to strap myself in and hold on. Things that are set for the end of the story happen in the middle, one conversation changes the entire course of the plot, and one phrase creates a new theme. I could fight it, but honestly, I always love the finished products so much more. The "accidents" make it all the more "real" to me.
I realize that this might be a bit easier to do if you're a panster. What are you tips, you plotters out there? How do you handle it when your characters change it up?
Below, Roi with a great big smile:
By the way, check out one of the last comments from Wednesday's post. Somehow our little furry antagonist figured out how to find my blog. Now, who taught him how to type?
Oh no... Roi's discovered Facebook. Looks like he's changing it up again!
2 hours ago