Take Jenny Sutton. We meet Jenny in Love’s Spirit, book two of The Brentwood Saga. She is feisty and courageous. When she learns that the hero, Jonathon Brentwood, has been captured by the British, she leaps on a horse to go save him alongside her love, Andrew Wentworth. She doesn’t blink twice, she just acts.
When I started writing Jenny in the opening scene of Love’s Courage, the third book in The Brentwood Saga, Jenny was quite different. Upon hearing of her father’s serious injury at the hands of a British sympathizer, she lies to Jonathon and Andrew in order to secure passage on Jonathon’s ship, the Destiny. Her lie to Andrew ensures he will not arrive in time to say goodbye—and possibly convince her not to leave.
I started writing the story and Jenny was all weepy and crying and “Woe is me.” While some of that is necessary, after all, she believes she’ll never again see Andrew, the love of her life. And her father may die before she gets there. But this wasn’t feisty, daring Jenny. This was mewling and puking Jenny, and frankly, she was ticking me off.
We had a talk. She explained to me that I had lost sight of who she really was. She thought it would be a good idea if I went back to Love’s Spirit and read about her again. As usual in conversations with characters, I think I’m in charge until they set me straight. I felt like Charles Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas when he says to Scrooge, “I’m the author!” and Scrooge replies, “Allegedly.”
So, I complied with Jenny’s wishes (she is, after all, very feisty) and reread chapters that included her in Love’s Spirit. Once I had her back in my head, I started the intro over. She became what she had always been, intrepid and full of Love’s Courage.
I explained this to a friend at lunch today who looked at me askance and asked, “You hear your characters talking to you?”
“Yes. But I’m not dangerous or anything.”
She nodded. “Uh huh.”
So, I may start a book thinking “I’m the author and the characters do what I say,” but, ultimately, we all know who’s in charge.
Oh, and Jenny said you should read her story. Love’s Courage is available in ebook, print, and audiobook on Amazon.