The author blog of C. J. Ivory

Tinkerer with words. Dresser-Upper. Adorer of Steampunk and VictoriaNoir fiction. Occasional Lawgineer.

November 26, 2011

Help! My Characters Have Turned On Me!

Right, well I'm either going mad or... no, actually that's the only explanation. You see, Gentle Reader, the characters in my NaNo novel are starting to be mean to me.

I don't deserve it. I slave all day over a hot laptop (yes, actually hot; I think something's on the fritz with it) just to breathe life into their sorry carcasses, and what do I get? Attitude, that's what.

I have my protagonist, who insists on doing a very good impression of a cardboard cutout, and having all the personality of low fat cottage cheese. She's got the makings to be fantastic, but she's determined to be ho-hum.
Then there's protagonist number two, and he kind of is being a number two at the moment. He's gone decidedly creepy on me. I mentioned earlier that he was coming across a bit Oedipal; now I can add to the list breaking and entering a widow's house in search of drugs and licking a girl's face at a formal dance. Not to mention the habit he has of wandering around Victorian London half-dressed (on a brighter note, because of his indecent habits I have learned that "pizzle" is an old-fashioned word for penis).
Then there's the antagonist, who spends more time reading the newspaper than anyone I've ever met. It's my fault, really. I was determined he wouldn't come off as a comic evil genius type. So he reads the paper a lot instead. Exciting stuff.
And then I have a whole cast of extras, who generally walk on scene, slowly go insane, and walk off again. I don't think there's a single one of my characters whose mental health I am not concerned about.

But the worst happened tonight, when my characters actually stopped the scene and started critiquing it. It was supposed to be a clever, picking-up-the-pieces scene where Constable Michael Connelly recreates, with the help of witnesses, a face off betwen the two protagonists form the night before. 
Creeper man, in a drug-induced mania, had been pursuing cardboard cutout girl through the London docks. She'd ducked into a boat building warehouse, and had climbed onto a ship in dry-dock. Apparently creeper man had attempted to burn the ship to smoke her out:

“That’s when he started the fire. T’was all so fast. One moment he had this oil lamp, that we’d left there from the afternoon, he smashed it against the sloop.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Michael Connelly said, stopping and staring at the author. “The girl could just have leapt off the ship and run away before the fire took hold.”
“Mebbe she climbed the mainsail first, so that she was stuck up in the crowsnest?” The bearded man offered. “That would make more sense, especially as I’m about to say she made a magnificent leap and swung on the end of a rope like a pendulum across the warehouse.”
“I think your main problem,” the tall man said, “is your terminology. Are you certain you even know what a sloop is?”
“And would a ship in dry dock really have a mainsail?” Connelly added. He scratched at his neck. “Wouldn’t they take the canvases down as they fixed it? You probably mean that pole in the middle of the ship that the sail is tied to, which I can’t possibly know the name of if you don’t.”
“I sergest you go Wiki it,” the bearded man offered. “Go on – we’ll abide here in the meantime.”
Argh. The worst part is, they're right: I'm not even sure that I do mean a sloop, and I'm pretty sure a mainsail is the canvas flappy thing that hangs off the big mast ("mast" being the word that neither Connelly nor I could remember at the time).

~ Charlotte, going slightly mad (but at least I'll meet most of my characters when I get there)


Cat Carlisle said...

I wouldn't mind reading a whole book of your characters talking to and berating you - it would be very entertaining! :D

Alyson said...

This problem! I know it so well! It's worrisome and maddening at the same time. It's hard not to want to reign in your characters when they are at last doing something really interesting (even if that something really interesting is breaking and entering, licking young ladies, or, in my case, burning down Vatican City). My theory is that characters go a bit haywire if you don't give them enough stuff to do, enough obstacles to tackle. Like parrots, or German shepherd puppies. Quicken your plot, go back in and either close or extrapolate on plot helps, anyway.

Breaking the four every draft I write myself in as a minor character to serve as the voice of reason in situations just like the ones you posted above. And then, I edit myself out later.

Cat Carlisle said...

Alyson writing yourself in to the story is such a fun idea! I may have to try that sometime to keep things from getting too serious.

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...

@ Cat - you obviously have a good appreciation for the absurd, like I do :) Watch out, or I may coerce you into being a beta reader!

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...

@ Alyson: Do you think we should start a support group? Characters NOT invited - or maybe they would be, that would certainly make the meetings very interesting ;)
I like your advice. I think the main issue was that I hadn't already written the action scene that Connelly was trying to piece together, so I didn't really have it completely clear in my mind as to how it all "went down". My fault for being such a non-chronological writer...

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cat Carlisle said...

I do love humor and the absurd in writing and most of my stories tend to include funny stuff. I think humor is much harder to get right than drama. I've enjoyed the excerpts you've posted here so if you need another beta reader, coerce away!

Trisha said...

This is a definite case of characters behaving badly, but in such a good and necessary way! hehe