Showing Characters Who’s in Charge (Hint: They Are) Part 2

As I told you in my previous post, I had to have a sit-down with Jenny Sutton to talk about how she was behaving. She had changed from brave and intrepid Jenny in Love’s Spirit to cry-baby, poor-me Jenny in Love’s Courage. Once we straightened that out and I did what she told me to do—go back and reread Love’s Spirit to see what she was really like—her character shaped right up.

I had to have a heart-to-heart with another character in Love’s Courage: British Lieutenant Nigel Ashby. I don’t usually share my conversations with  the voices in my head my characters, however, I thought this would explain how difficult they can be. Here’s how our discussion went. I will refer to myself in this exchange as “Author.”

Author: Nigel, we need to talk.

Nigel: Please, call me Lieutenant Ashby.

Author: I’ll call you Nigel. Listen, you have to lighten up. At least at the beginning of the story. You come across as very rigid and rather Snidely Whiplash-ish right off the bat.

Nigel: And whose fault is that?

Author: Clearly, yours. That’s how you’re behaving.

Nigel: Look, Author. You can’t have it both ways. You either write me and that’s what I’m like, or you listen to me and write me as I am. If I’m being Snidely Whiplash-ish, it’s because you have written me that way. I’m an entirely pleasant man.

Author: No, you’re not and you know it. The only pleasant thing about you is that you fall in love with Jenny.

Nigel (with a far-off look in his eyes): Ah, Jenny. The one woman capable of capturing my heart. Yes, I truly care for her. And the cooler she is, the hotter I get! Damn, she’s driving me mad!

Author: Well, you have to let the reader see those tender feelings.

Nigel: I would if you’d let me. You have me acting all stiff and commanding all the time. Maybe you’d better go back and review what you’ve written. How easy it is to blame me for being an unsavory character when the pen rests in your hand, or rather, the keys are at your fingertips.

Author: Well, let’s compromise. I’ll go back and reread what I’ve written if you promise to soften up a bit.

Nigel: It’s a deal. Now I must go convince Jenny that I am the only man worthy of her love. For she will come to love me, you know.

Author (shaking head): There you go again.

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