11 January 2010

Oh, No She Didn't: When Characters Hide Dark Secrets from Authors

You are probably going to think I'm nuts. I don't blame you. If I wasn't a writer, I'd see a doctor about this. You see, my characters don't just talk to me, that would be somewhat...normal. No, my characters keep secrets FROM me.

Has this ever happened to you?

I was going along writing this story as happy as a clam (before the clam is snatched from it's lovely rock and thrown into a pot of boiling water). I knew the characters, knew where I was going, could see the climax up ahead and the end was just around the corner. Lovely.

Then all of a sudden...BAM!

The main character digs in her heels and slams on the brakes. No way would she go my way.

"What? You can't stop NOW," I told her. "Don't you see the climax? The bright shiny 'The End' sign?"

"No! I won't. I can't go there. I'm scared," she said.

That gave me pause. Sure, there were scary things in the story, it is a paranormal, after all, still...Her fear seemed to come from something else, somewhere else entirely.

"Why are you scared?"

"I can't tell anyone," she whispered.

She had a secret? How was that possible? I created her. The story was mine.

Or was it?

After a lot of prodding, my character gave in and told me that dark secret from her past. The one I, the author, never knew. Not quite the "I used to be a man" sort of reveal, but big.

Oh. My. Gosh.

This changed everything. She was right, she couldn't go down my path to the end, it was too straight, too...normal. Her journey was deep and fraught with twists and turns and glorious redemption. It meant an entire rewrite, which of course I'm doing. It is all about the story, isn't it? And real characters. And authors getting out of the way.

I wish she had told me earlier, but maybe she didn't trust me then. Maybe she thought I was nuts.

Authors: Have your characters ever revealed something that you didn't know?
Readers: Have you read a book that had a twist in it that completely floored you?

Kimberley Troutte
Author of:
Soul Stealer
Catch Me in Castile
www.kimberleytroutte.com
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