Who are these people anyway? Characters are often the catalyst to get a story going, the driving force to propel it to new heights and the salve to fix the catastrophes the story created. However, they are also the procrastinators who don’t want to leave their safe environment, which causes the authors to create bigger and badder reasons to kick them out, the stubborn mules who want to do it their own way instead of the neat and orderly procession of ideas outlined by their creator, and the knives that tear holes through the storyline so carefully crafted.
It is a constant love/hate relationship with my characters. Often I find I have my story going full force, know where it is headed, and suddenly, my characters are reacting very differently than how I wanted them to. Characters that are planned to make up are now at each other’s throats and bringing up even greater hurts. I am yelling at my screen for them to behave and act like the proper character they are supposed to be, but they blithely continue on with how they think their lives should be led. Teenagers, all of them, I swear. Yet somehow in the end, when I’ve sworn I will erase all their indiscretions and make them the characters I intended, I look at their ideas and realize they knew what they were doing all along. They have taken me to places I was either scared to go, or didn’t even think about in the first place. And through their real decisions, the story has gone where it should have in the first place.
But to do this, character creation is everything. Two-dimensional characters do not have the inclination or ability to take you on this journey. And if they can’t take you as a writer there, how are they ever going to get the more critical reader to go along and believe the ride. For me, this has been a learning process for character building, taking the character out for a spin and seeing how they end up, then cleaning it up to make sure they are that person throughout the book. But I think this is changing. I am now planning and seeing my characters more, getting to know them, before we take the first drive around the block.
No matter the process an author uses, and it is different depending on the author, the key thing to remember is your character is not and should not be stagnant. If you have the same exact hero/heroine as you had at the beginning of the story, what was the point of the story at all? You have to let your teenagers out to face the world and change into the adults/heroes they were meant to be.
So I remember while yelling at my characters as they misbehave, “Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum” (Graycie Harmon), and the inmates really are running the place.