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When characters don't follow the plan

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Nov. 13, 2020
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I’ve been revisiting a fantasy novel that I had fallen in love with as a teenager, The Axis Trilogy. As I was reading it I remembered what the author had said about the character Faraday and her intentions for her fate. She commented in an interview, “She was never meant to become a major character – she just “grew”. I couldn't control her.” (You can read the article here.)

I’ve written a past article that mused over this very quote. As I’ve gotten into the swing of writing and creating comics once more, constructing outlines and plots, laying down story beats and expectations of where the characters might go and how they will react, I find that this holds ever more true.

I remember one instance when writing with a friend, a character of mine spontaneously broke it off with their original character. They immediately got on my case, exclaiming, “What are you doing?!” I, equally dumbfounded, could merely and lamely respond, “I don’t know! I didn’t know that was going to happen!”

As stories progress, I find myself surprised when my characters begin building relationships with other characters behind my back. For instance, in one current comic, my writing partner and I have an OTP ship, however, it is becoming clear that there is an emerging and rather complicated love triangle (though, as it goes on, it is looking more like a polygon) emerging, much to our surprise.

Are we still pursuing the story beats we have planned? Of course we are.

It remains to be seen if our characters are on the same page.

Have your characters surprised you? Have you ever changed your story to fit around their new position? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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comment

anonymous?

PaulEberhardt at 10:20AM, Nov. 14, 2020

Characters do develop a life of their own. I've known this for a long time, and while I'm normally quite a control freak, I've learned to loosen their reins and embrace the results. In fact, I quite radically built my whole comic here as an experiment around this very concept: I purposefully picked those of my characters that had the most independent life of their own at the time, brought them together, and purposefully desisted from bothering with reasons or any story structure whatsoever. I let my characters take over completely, leaned back and invited my readers along to see what happens. I'm as amazed as the next person that this works at all, let alone that it still does after all these years. It's certainly not a good approach for everyone and everything, but I've never regretted this idea. I've had so much fun with it for more than a decade - still have - that I wouldn't have it any other way now.

Kou the Mad at 11:25PM, Nov. 13, 2020

When your carefully laid, several year long plan (Even longer depending on the character in question, could go up to Millennia.) all goes to plan except one little shit just had to go off the rails. I love those kind of plots. I love the version of it even more if the spanner in the works was an Alien Invasion or something that could not be remotely reasonably be planned for. Outside Context Problem, a fun trope when used right.

Banes at 1:35PM, Nov. 13, 2020

I’ve definitely had plots resolve in surprising ways that I never saw coming until I got there - certain character nuances pop up seemingly out of nowhere. It’s really fun. My people tend to snap back roughly to where they started at the end of each story so I haven’t had the full experience yet that you’re talking about. But I expect it happens to most writers at some point!

Kiddermat at 7:39AM, Nov. 13, 2020

yea partway through chapter 3 of my comic, the characters took control of the story XD I even made a comic about it. https://www.theduckwebcomics.com/Short_changed/5645038/ I actually hear this alot from people who create/write/draw they make something and it takes on a mind of its own and you end up just being the bridge between them in your brain, and them on a paper for others to see. They tell your hands/fingers what to draw or write.. and you have no control anymore... Its kind of a cool feeling thats really hard to explain.


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