Having Fun and Oh My Gosh, is THAT how Characters Take Over???

Having fun when you write is essential – Yes, I know, sometimes tears are important too, and energy and emotion and strength and perseverance, but in any endeavor, having fun keeps you going more than any other of those things.

So, what happens when you’ve hit a rough spot or an insolvable problem and after weeks or maybe even months, you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall and wishing you’d never started the dang project? How do you get the fun back into the equation?

We all try all the different things that can be done in that situation. We take a day or more away. Or we try to force our way through it. Or we try logic and mapping out all the pros and cons, all the paths available, all the ways that might deliver what we need most – that troublesomely rare and elusive solution.

Sometimes we quit. Sometimes we sleep on it. Sometimes we hand it over to our characters.

Forcing a character to come up with their own solution is not the same as leaving that character to find their own solution. The first – demanding a character take over – leaves you (the writer) still in the situation of having to solve a problem. You’re still at your desk. The second – leaving that character to do it alone – has you (the explorer) treating your character as a viable being and being prepared to engage with them. You’ve entered their world.

The moment you start to wonder how the character would go about it, something happens on a subconscious level. In effect, you slip from your desk and enter the character’s world where their worry is not how you will solve a problem. Their worry is ground-level. It’s right there and if their problem is particularly serious, they are going to die unless they work it out.

They’re not working with words. They’re looking around for a lump of driftwood to use as a weapon, or they’re tearing curtains into strips to weave together into a rope, or they’re trying to learn how to fly the dang helicopter. Whatever. They’re not interested in telling a story, they’re interested in survival.


I’ve had characters take off and give me powerful solutions to serious painted-into-the-corner problems that I could not find an escape to. I’ve also had characters totally ruin what I wanted to do because it clashed with their character or their professionalism (Sevi tripped me up constantly on that one. Fortunately I listened to her and she is now one of my best).

Grab this thought: When you started writing way-back-when and putting together ideas for the first time, what was the best bit? The most fun? For most, it’s putting on the characters and seeing their world through their eyes. You imagine What If and you play it out. All the excitement, all the fears, the fighting and the blood and the love and the joy. You’re like a kid, mentally playing it out in a movie. Right? I’m not the only one, I know I’m not.

So… when YOU are looking at a problem with the plot, it’s all business, it’s all have to, it’s all nothing but words and frankly it’s all a pain in the posterior – You sure as heck are Not Having Fun.

When you hand the issue to your characters to solve, you’ve shifted your thinking. You’ve gone from looking at a problem at desk level to exploring the world of your characters, seeing them and hearing them and letting them think for themselves. You’re thinking like a writer, in fact, getting to grips with what they have, how they feel and what they might do.

If you know the character you are dealing with, it’s easy to get inside their head (and if you don’t know, get inside their head anyway, they might surprise you and you might learn a trick or two).

Sometimes the character might want to do their own thing. That’s fun. That’s exploration.

So, if you’ve hit a wall somewhere, the secret seems to be to get back in touch with what’s important to you as a writer and to what’s important to the character’s situation. Fortunately you can do both at the same time by having fun in their world.

Happy writing, everyone!



This post was inspired by Writingsprint in comments to Getting into a writing routine (second post below this one in my Home page).

4 thoughts on “Having Fun and Oh My Gosh, is THAT how Characters Take Over???

  1. writingsprint

    OMG, I didn’t even see that line at the bottom 😀 ! Thanks! Seriously, though, I just reblogged this because I was thinking of writing a post about it, too, and there’s no way I could have done it better. This is truth, all of it.

    In answer to your questions — yes, playing it out in a movie is exactly how I got started. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader with a lightsaber. I wanted to be Mike Donovan saving the Earth from lizards disguised as humans. I wanted to be James Bond, saving the world and getting the girl.

    And like you said: the characters are FAR better equipped to solve these problems than we are. Some of them are trained killers. Others are wiser. All of them are in the situation up to their eyes, and they’re feeling it, living it, differently from how we would.

    I heard an acting coach say, “We’re all the priest and the murderer, the princess and the whore.” One of the most fun parts of writing is being in someone else’s skin for a while, especially at those “oh my God” moments 😀 .

    1. A.D. Everard Post author

      I’m so glad you like this. It was talking with you that had me see it – a real flash of clear-sightedness. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I was the same. I was Captain Kirk (up a tree, usually, the USS Enterprise), and all manner of good guys and bad guys. It’s the only way to put a story together, in my opinion. 😀

  2. Nick

    That’s the moment I love. I tend toward somewhat-autonomous writing, meaning I have my ideas and then I just write, but occasionally an idea will pop in as though I’m observing. At some level I’m always in the second approach, which comes from a few years worth of roleplaying different characters online, and having to think like somebody not myself.

    It’s probably why the moments hit me with more surprise. I know not everyone has the same experience, but feel lucky that I do.

    1. A.D. Everard Post author

      I’m with you all the way. I love it when that happens. It makes the whole thing very exciting. I also find I get glimpses like a photo, a complete image of something I hadn’t even thought to describe yet, and there it is, ready for me – seen through the eyes of a character taking charge. Having “seen” it, I can then describe it.

      These wonderful characters (whoever and whenever they do this wonderful thing) not only make the story richer, they speed along its progress.

      Like you, I feel very lucky. I think letting it happen enables it to happen more. 🙂


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