“Who’s the puppet, who’s the master?”

First of all, I feel that I should comment on NaNoWriMo thus far. Currently I am a couple thousand words ahead and expect to finish with some time to spare. Getting sick for a weak though put me a little behind, but don’t fear, I shall prevail! =)

With that, moving on.

In said novel I have a character who does some pretty heinous things, even if you have a pretty loose definition of morality. Stealing, killing, raping, torturing, doing drugs, blowing up planets…pretty much nothing is sacred to her. Naturally I wouldn’t condone most of these actions in the real world and am not exactly proud of this character for having the actions she does…but I have run into the notion a couple of times that, as the author, I should be able to control this character. To not make her do these things. To make her hold back, to make her not have the thoughts and desires to do those things at all.

Here’s a hint: it doesn’t work that way.

Not to say that I, as an author, don’t have any control at all. After all, I did create the little hellion. Technically. Actually, said character never even existed in the original outline drafts. It wasn’t until I started writing the first draft that she just appeared and asserted herself as one of the main antagonists. Oh joy. Who was this person? And what did she want with my novel? I went with it. She ended up coloring things for sure, but to what extent? She was doing things I never originally planned, things I never originally saw occurring in this novel. And yet there she was, raping and pillaging like it was in the script all along.

This opens the can of worms of how much responsibility we authors have over our characters. We like to think we know them. Everything. We make huge profiles of our characters and write extensive biographical histories for them. And then they pull some crazy stunt that leaves you sitting there at your keyboard going “OH HELL WHAT?!”. And yet it works, and it fits them perfectly in some weird and perverted way.

I somewhat akin it to like raising a child. We want our characters to do the right thing, the grow and become their own unique people. But they rarely turn out the way we expect them to, and even rarely parrot back our own opinions and moralities we instilled into them. And yet we have to love them, because they are ours. We may not be proud of them, we may not agree with what they do, but we see what their necessity is to these worlds and are thankful that they are there.

On one hand I can say I do not totally control my characters, but on the other, they certainly do not necessarily control me. At the end of the day I can edit some acts I deem unneeded out. They still did them, they’re still there, but I can ultimately silence them. Like putting them in time-out.

I just hope that when retirement comes they put me in a nice home.