Normally (or if I had time to post properly it would be normally), Tuesdays are for my dating updates and relationship posts, but today, as we countdown to #NaNoWriMo, I want to look at a different kind of relationship: The relationship between author and character(s).
Anyone who plays the Sims knows that there are definitely different ways to interact with your characters. There are whole websites, quizzes, and YouTube videos about how to be different types of Simmers. Here’s a basic one:
But why am I talking to you about the Sims?
Not only do I love that game, but it’s a good point about what kind of author you can be as well. While there might not be cheat codes when writing, authors seem to be of a similarly wide grouping in the way they interact with their characters.
The Parent Figure
Some authors love their characters and want to nurture them on their path. They are like parents and their characters are their children. They know that the kids will fall occasionally and maybe scrape a knee and that they will face hardships, but, like good parents, they will be there to pick the characters up and kiss their boo-boos.
They guide their characters as best they can and they weep at their death.
The one who sticks out in my mind most is J.K. Rowling. She said she wept when she realized that Dumbledore had to die, and she wrote several tweets about the deaths of other characters as well.
She is still watching over them like a watchful parent, correcting people when they come up with weird fan theories about the motives or actions of characters. Me, personally, I love watching some of those theories. Super Carlin Brothers have some really interesting ones…
On the other end of the spectrum are those writers who get pleasure from tormenting their characters. They enjoy setting their characters up to fail or watching them struggle. Sometimes that struggle will come to a positive end. The characters will learn their lessons to become good heroes. Other times, however, those struggles will lead to just more pain and torture, like in horror stories.
The example that always comes to mind is George R.R. Martin, most notably when he responded to J.K. Rowling’s sadness at the memory of all the deaths caused by the Battle of Hogwarts:
Of course, his reaction to J.K. Rowling isn’t the only sign of his sadism. It has been said that his original idea for Game of Thrones was for there to be NO survivor to take over the Iron Throne. He had planned to have all our main characters die a grisly death on the battlefield. Whether or not he will still end with that has yet to be seen. As he has not completed the books and now HBO has created their own version of the show that shows that the fans want there to be a winner, perhaps he will have to change his original plan.
On the other hand, perhaps he is enough of a sadist that he would rather leave us all heartbroken as our favorites lie dead and bleeding on the battlefield, as was his supposed original plan.
There are plenty of people in between these two extremes. Not everyone can believe in either a happily ever after or the pain of a sadistic ending.
For instance, if we can bring it back to the Sims for a moment, when I play the Sims, I am mostly a benevolent goddess. My Sims are my creations, and I want their lives to be as close to perfect as they can be. I weave stories about the little, pixelated people on my screen. As such, sometimes, their lives cannot be perfect because it doesn’t work with the story I’ve woven.
For instance, I once had a Sim who was very afraid of commitment, but in order to continue the game, she must have a child. Obviously, something terrible had to happen to her baby-daddy so she could end the relationship and continue to be single, and yet still be a mother. The child, then, desperately wanted to grow up, find her soulmate, and be a great mom.
The point being that I am a Story-teller, with a slightly positive leaning. I find it is somewhat similar when writing. I want what is best for my characters, although I do recognize that sometimes, I have to subject my characters to some trauma for them to fulfill their story.
Story-tellers are neither particularly negative or positive. They choose a story for their characters and then they subject them to what is necessary for the characters to reach their goals. It’s a neutral telling, unlike the extremes of the Parent Figure or the Sadist.
Another neutral type might be those who believe the stories they write aren’t their stories, but stories from someone (or somewhere) else. These Recorders often believe the stories to be those of the characters themselves or stories given to the authors by some elusive outer source.
Plenty of the people who come to our Sunday writers’ chat claim to simply be the recorders of the stories their characters show them. These recorders are in interesting company: Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight saga, says that she was shown the story:
Can it be that simple? Can you just look for a story and have your muse bring it to you?
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love talks about that very thing as she discusses where inspiration comes from. We show up to work and write the stories that are offered to us from somewhere else. We may or may not be the origins of the characters, but it doesn’t matter so long as we are willing to show and up do the work. Whether it is positive, negative, or neutral is determined by you, the author, but her theory suggests that we can still get help from elsewhere, help that makes the story or the project bigger or better somehow if we allow it:
So what kind of writer are you? And how will you interact with your characters? Did I miss one?
Good luck to you as we move into #NaNoWriMo. It is almost upon us, and I wish you (and your muse) and your characters all the best of luck!