“I’m one of those writers who, when writing, believes she’s god-and that she hasn’t bestowed free will on any of her characters. In that sense there are no surprises in any of my books.” -Lynn Abbey
I chose this quote today because it’s the complete opposite of how I feel when I write, and that got me thinking that this could prompt a great discussion question. Though I’ve tried, especially recently, to drift into other projects and genres, my heart will always be a great big epic Fantasy/Sci Fi writer. Inside my head is an entire world of characters, a good portion of which have been there since I first entertained the idea of becoming a writer and started to fashion tales out of ideas back in the sixth grade. I wrote a novel back then. I would give anything to uncover that bit of ancient history; I’m sure it would be a hoot, an insane trip down memory lane, but it would also show just have much these characters have changed and developed in a little over a decade.
And I’m finding that they’re still changing, constantly revealing new things about themselves that I hadn’t noticed before or weaving the plots in a different direction that I had originally planned. Perhaps this is why I’m so much of a pantser rather than a plotter; I find my plots are always being altered, anyway! Technically speaking, it’s probably not the characters at all but rather my brain filling in the gaps of the plot holes that I hadn’t realized were there at first, but it certainly feels like it’s an external force rather than my own head working on some unconscious level.
The idea that I might be able to be a writer like Lynn Abbey, who wields a pen (or keyboard) like the sceptre of an omnipotent god directing the little minions of her fancy into doing exactly what she tells them, is astonishing to me. Inconceivable. How does she get them to behave? To listen? Of course she hasn’t given them free will; free will is not something you can give someone. But it sounds like perhaps her characters have an obedience imbedded into them that my characters have roundly refused.
And I’m okay with that. One of the best feelings for me in writing is when I’m coming along something I know to be problematic, and then, somehow, I pull out something about a character I never even imagined I’d have thought of, it works, and everything is better than it was in my original version. It’s like they know the story better than I do, and I’m more of a conduit for telling it than the actual crafter of the tale.
What’s it like for you? Are you godlike in your directing of your characters and they, obedient, follow? Or are you more of a servant to the whims of your characters motivations and actions? I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the answers to these questions were also in line with answering whether or not you’re a plotter or a pantser. Which do you prefer? Do you wish you could be a little bit more or less like one or the other? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this!