I love it when the American Christian Fiction Writers loop gets a little… loopy. We’ve been talking this week in our emails about characters who get out of control. Sometimes, we plan out an entire plot only to have a character “act up” and change the whole thing. No, we can’t seem to control our characters when they do that. Sometimes they go crazy. Jake, in Going in Circles, positively refused to let me change his name. I hated that name for him, but every time I tried to change it, he refused to be written. It was almost like he stood in the corner, crossed his arms, and glared at me. (Trust me. Other writers talk like this too. I am not crazy. Well, not THAT crazy. Things like this are why I love writers conferences. “My people” understand this and do not call the loony bin.)
The original plan for Jake was for him to be a memory. He was not to show up at all in the book except in Samantha’s guilt. He was the past, the wish-I-could-do-that-over, the person who needed to be forgotten.
One night–I kid you not, it was straight-up midnight–Jake woke me up. He was banging on Samantha’s door. I rolled over in the bed and told him to shut up and go away, since he wasn’t allowed in the book. Long story short, I had to get up and write a scene where she let him in.
I wound up keeping the scene, and it changed the whole book.
Know why Jake took over like that? Because I was too afraid to write him into the book. The book needed him. It’s richer for having him. It’s more emotional with him there. He highlights Sam’s frailties and insecurities. But I was terrified of that kind of emotion, of that kid of digging into my own insecurities, and I tried to take the easy way out.
God wouldn’t let me. It wasn’t really Jake knocking on Samantha’s door. It was God knocking on mine, asking me to face my fears, telling me I had to be honest with those emotions. Fear is one of the reasons I think characters get out of control.
So no more fear, folks. God’s got stories to tell. Those of us who are writers need to let go of the wheel and let Him tell them…