What Do You Mean, “She Wouldn’t Go Away?”

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A feeling every writer knows—locked in a straight jacket searching for words

Writers are a funny lot. Some might even say crazy. We talk (aloud or silently) to people who don’t exist. We create lives, backgrounds—indeed, entire worlds for them. We lovingly choose names, long-lost loves, friends, babies, hobbies and jobs, and if we really love them, we put them in mortal danger. Then when it looks like they might escape, we snatch defeat from victory. All so you can have an exciting story to read.

Well, that’s not really true. Most of us write whether we ever sell the manuscripts or not. We write because we have to. The stories bubble up from somewhere deep inside us and must be let out.

Depending on what genre we write, we may have more strange quirks. Suspense writers spend hours trying to figure out how to harm or even kill someone. I have a friend who, at her daughter’s gymnastics practice, suddenly blurted out to another mother who was a nurse, “How can I shoot someone in the chest, and hurt him really bad, but not kill him?”

Romance novelists create obstacle after obstacle to keep their lovers apart until the v-e-r-y  l-a-s-t chapter. What kind of friend would that be to have around? “I’d like to have lunch with you, but my house is flooded/my father won’t approve/I have to move across the country.…” They’d always be cancelling on you.

And historical fiction writers, like me, are always researching. “When are you making dinner, Mom?” “Just as soon as I figure out what kind of fruit was in season in the spring in Egypt three thousand years ago.” “Never mind … I’ll make grilled cheese.”

But one thing we all have in common—that only other writers understand—is that we often have very little control over our characters. In my first book, I introduced a girl. (Ah yes, the girl…) My books are not romances, and she wasn’t important to the plot. She was only there to provide a situation for my hero to display his anger issues. She was supposed to show up once and never return. But she wouldn’t go away. My non-writer friends say, “What do you mean? You’re the writer, aren’t you? Don’t your people do what you tell them to do?”

Meri from In the Shadow of Sinai

Meri from In the Shadow of Sinai

Not always. She just kept hanging around, and eventually he married her. (That’s not a spoiler—their story is definitely a subplot.) But sometimes we plot a whole novel out and the characters just refuse to go where they’re told.

Another character was supposed to die about one-third of the way through the book. My crit partners liked him so much they kept saying, “Oh, I love him! I hope he doesn’t die when such-and-such happens.” In that case, I made a conscious decision to keep him. And now he’s the hero in the sequel. (He owes my crit partners his life. Literally.)

Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work the same way. Many’s the time I would have written events in a completely different way from the way things actually played out. In life, we are not the creator, the author—God is. And if we let Him, He will always write a better story than any we can come up with. In all of those times I would have changed it, I would also have regretted it, because it turned out for the best when I stepped aside and let Him have His way.

That’s hard to do, I know. Have you ever done that? What did you learn? Did it encourage you, strengthen your faith? Share with us! Let us encourage each other, AND you’ll be entered into the drawing for our lovely gift-basket give-away filled with:

Laughing With Lilly and Second Chance by Eileen Rife;Unconditional by Tanya Eavenson;  In the Shadow of Sinai by Carole Towriss; Yesterday’s Promise, Jewels of the Kingdom and A Cowboy’s Christmas and two beautiful jewelry pieces by Deliah Latham Sweet Freedom With a Slice of Peach Cobbler by numerous authors, Heaven’s Prey by Janet Sketchley; and Enemy in the RoomTen Lies, Ten TruthsOn the Edge, andThe President by Parker Hudson.

Engage regularly and receive multiple entries, one for each comment. :)

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15 Responses to What Do You Mean, “She Wouldn’t Go Away?”

  1. Wow – I can so relate. Characters in books definitely have a mind of their own, but that’s half the fun of writing – to see where the book takes you.

    What a great article and thanks for the chance to enter to win a gift basket of SO MANY great books! So many of those I have been wanting to read and haven’t had a chance.

    clSwalwell@gmail.com

    in Him,
    Cheri 🙂

  2. Ah yes, I can relate. Thirty years ago I thought my husband and I would be in the pastorate, but God had another plan–Christian counseling. I tremble to think how things would’ve gone if I’d been a pastor’s wife. Ugh! God decided to preserve my sanity by making me a counselor’s wife.Not always an easy role to play but oh, what a blessing to see so many lives changed through a one-on-one process which Chuck calls his “special pulpit.” The man was clearly created to counsel. Together, we team up to conduct marriage seminars in the states and overseas. A journey I never expected but one that’s been so fulfilling.

    • caroletowriss says:

      Eileen,
      It’s often when we look back we see the wisdom of His choices. If only we could trust that beforehand!

  3. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    I’m glad that God didn’t ask my opinion on how my life should go. I would have picked an easy, no change or tears along the way path. But instead, God blessed me with a difficult, teared filled path that led to a life more joyful than I could’ve ever imagined!

  4. delialatham says:

    I can’t imagine a docile character…mine all rebel. lol But that’s half the fun of writing. Although we’re creating the story, we kind of get to “watch” it play out as we go, just as the reader does.

    I’m so glad God holds the reins – and the quill – in my life story. I couldn’t make it without Him, His guidance, His love. I often wonder how people get by who don’t rely on God.

    Wonderful post, Carole!

    • caroletowriss says:

      I have so often wondered that as well. I’ve seen people struggle in hard times without him and just been in so much pain for them. I don’t think I’d last very long.

  5. Erin Unger says:

    It’s so true that our characters have a mind of their own. I can’t tell you how many times the story went in its own direction, completely different from what I intended. Thanks for a great post.

  6. Characters have a mind of their own for sure! Sometimes I have to rein my characters in, but other times I let them loose to find out what they think or what their motivation is.

    As to real life, I’ve learned through hard times that God is faithful to His promises. Would I change those hard times? I don’t think so, because if it wasn’t for those times, I wouldn’t understand who God is, His character, and His love for me.

    Enjoyed it, Carole!

  7. Renette Steele says:

    How much of yourself or people you know wind up in your characters?

  8. Lois Hudson says:

    I laughed with understanding as I read this post. Only other writers understand. One of my hateful characters woke me up in the middle of the night one night, and her father gave me the surprising, astonishing situation to put her in her place. It was a complete surprise to me, and is going to be a complete surprise to her as well!
    Thanks for this opportunity to win your generous gift basket.

  9. Diana Prusik says:

    What a mess I would make of life if God always granted my requests, Carole! Your post brings to mind the Garth Brooks lyrics, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” As an author, I often pray for God to guide not only my life, but also the lives of my characters. He may not be in the business of saving fictional souls, but He certainly can use them to impact real people. When our characters take over our story, I like to think that’s actually God at work. Great post, Carole!

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