Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Life of Their Own



It was quiet. The author had gone to bed but Chloe couldn’t sleep – not now that she’d found out what could happen to her. She stared at the screen that was the barrier between herself and her creator. What could she do? She didn’t want to die.
It was a conundrum. She had only just become aware of the screen and that there was someone on the other side determining her destiny. What right had the author to dictate her fate? That she could die in 1952? It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. But what could she do about it?
Chloe reached out and touched the screen. She thought it might have been electrified but it was cool to the touch. She placed both hands on the shimmering surface and to her astonishment they went through the iridescence. She stumbled forward and found herself in another realm.
She caught her breath. How could this be possible? Then again she’d travelled in time and space from present day Melbourne to 1950s France. That hadn’t been impossible – not according to the author – so why couldn’t she leap beyond the story? She was real – in all the ways that mattered – and she could determine her own destiny.
Chloe glanced around the room. She was in a house not that much bigger than her own.  She smiled to herself at the snoring coming from what must be the bedroom then jumped as a little voice behind her said, “Hello.” She let out a nervous giggle when she realised it was a small pet bird.
The snoring stopped and she held her breath, cursing her lack of self-control. What would she do if she were discovered? But the snoring resumed again and all was well.
Chloe turned her attention to the computer. She’d memorised the password from the last log on and it was simple to find the Scrivener file. She frowned as she read through the latest chapter. This would never do. She pondered for a moment. If she erased the text, the author would just rewrite it. Chloe didn’t know if she’d be able to escape from the pages again any time soon. The author usually shut the computer down at night. She bit her lip as she searched through the other files. Research … character … outline ... . That was it!
Chloe opened the file. Her eyebrows lifted as she read. She hadn’t thought of that outcome… She chewed on her lip again and a small smile quirked on her lips as she began typing.
The sky outside was developing a faint pink hue when Chloe finished her work. She stood, stretched and placed both hands on the cool screen. In an instant she was back in her own world. At least now her destiny was surer.

The antagonist watched as Chloe reappeared through the shimmering screen and hurried away  down a dark street. He’d been waiting for his chance ever since he’d seen her disappear into that other world. He placed his hands on the screen as she had done and leapt. He smiled with delight as he sat at the desk, cracked his knuckles and began to type.

Several hours later, the author plonked down into her seat and placed a steaming mug of coffee on the desk next to her computer. She yawned as she logged on but the yawn developed into a sigh. The outline file was open – again. Who was it this time? Last week it was Ethan who seemed to have a life of his own. Didn’t these characters realise that she, the author, was in charge? Why did they always want to take over? She pondered for a while then decided that this would be a great topic for a blog…

It fascinates me that this phenomenon happens again and again when I write. Well … characters don’t literally leap out of the screen and rewrite the story (sometimes it would be good if they could) but most of us have experienced the protagonist who refuses to behave in the way we want them to. I once heard author Diana Gabaldon talk about the writing of her Outlander series. In the initial stages she tried hard to give Claire, her female protagonist, an eighteenth century voice but she kept sounding like a 20th century nurse. In the end Diana gave up and constructed a scenario where she could get this 20th century woman into the eighteenth century. The rest, as they say, is history.
There is an element to every creative process that goes beyond the normal workings of our rational mind. The creative brain reaches into places we would never have dreamed of going ourselves (or maybe we would only have gone there in a dream). And as Christians we can call on the Holy Spirit to further empower our imagination. It makes writing a wonderful, crazy voyage of discovery.
How about you? Have you had characters assume a life of their own and take over mid-story? Did it help or hinder the narrative? Please let me know in the comments below :).



Sue Jeffrey was born in Scotland but moved to Brisbane, Australia with her family when she was just a wee lass. After a childhood spent reading, drawing and accumulating stray animals, Sue studied veterinary science and later moved to Adelaide where she worked as both a vet and a pastor. After a sojourn of several years in the Australian Capital Territory, Sue returned to Adelaide with two dogs, a very nice husband, and a deepdesire to write. Sue has a MA in creative writing and her short stories and poems have appeared in several anthologies including Tales of the Upper RoomSomething in the Blood: Vampire Stories With a Christian Bite and Glimpses of Light. Sue won the 'short' category in the inaugural Tabor Adelaide/ Life FM 'Stories of Life' award and her e-book, 'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story,' is available from Amazon.com. Sue also paints animal portraits.


21 comments:

  1. What a creative post! Loved reading it Sue and loved the idea. I think the story can go places so I hope you will use it either in a short story or in a novel! I've not yet encountered this but know other writers who have. Sounds delightfully strange that characters have a life of their own. Thanks for a very creative piece of writing!

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    1. Jodi Picoult wrote a story with her daughter - Between the Lines - in which the characters in the story interact with the reader (the protagonist) and even come out of the pages. It was a fun read :)

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    2. Thanks, Anisha. It was fun to write.
      Jeanette, that sounds like a book I must read ��.

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  2. I loved this creative post Sue. And yes my characters often take over. Once a black boy jumped into my story and surprised me as much as my protagonist!
    I read s blog by Francine Rivers that talked about organizing her next novel. She made the comment that two of her characters were unhappy about their name. So we are in good company.

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    1. Thanks, Jo. Isn't it weird how our imagination works? It's a treasure given to us by God.

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  3. Very clever, Sue. I liked the part about Diana Gabaldon, too. Sometimes you have to just go with the muse!

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn. Just think - Outlander could have been just another historical novel. Mind you I like those too... Did you notice the small Poldark Easter egg in my post?

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  4. Hi Sue, that's a fun post. Your scenario reminded me of the movie 'Stranger than Fiction' with Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson, where he was her main character on a quest not to be killed. How fascinating if our characters really did jump into real life and speak to us. For me, they've always felt very real. I could see their faces and hear their voices, and that goes other authors' fictional characters too.

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    1. Hi Paula. I haven't seen that movie but it sounds fun. Will have to take a look :).

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  6. Hi Sue. Thanks for an entertaining post :) Ah, characters - they do have a mind of their own. One of my characters refused to be the 'sidekick' and took over the story to become the main protagonist. I think my novel is a better for it.

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    1. Yep they are stubborn creatures. It's great when it works out that well!

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  7. How cool! I love this idea... and yes, it is true to life because that's just what happens!

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  8. Hi Sue. Entertaining blog which got me thinking! Since I write very little fiction I'm tempted to say that I'd probably kill off characters who would try to hijack my story but you never know, do you, whether that story might be enhanced by the change. I will never know unless I try writing fiction one day. Hmmmm!

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  9. Hello Sue. Wow! What an entertaining and creative post. I too enjoyed that movie 'Stranger than Fiction' ... yes, you must hunt it down and watch it. Back to those incredible and often naughty characters, I have a couple of characters who just do not want to get up in the morning, so that I can start my day. They are so frustrating *wink* Then there are the ones who keep popping their heads into the office, saying 'what about me?'. It can be really hard at times to focus with so many characters and ideas running around in one's head, and jumping all over the keyboard. Heck, one time a character who I will call 'Miss B' was busy trying to convince me that I should just take the afternoon off, as she was tired, and why didn't I just go and have that cuppa with my girlfriends! Can you imagine? What a cheek! I absolutely agree with you Sue, that these characters are very real. If they weren't how would we ever be able to tell their story? I think I would love to share this post on my own blog, as it is so powerful, I believe. Thanks again for this great read.

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    1. Wow. Thanks. That's high praise. Feel free to share :). I LOVE that you have characters that don't want to get up in the morning.

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  11. Yes! It's incredible how I can intend my characters to say one thing only to find that they say something different as I write. This often takes the story or the character in a different direction. Well said, Sue!

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    1. Thanks! Those kinds of characters ruin all our plans and writing is better for it.

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  12. Wow. Great post. My characters often decide the direction and I usually follow where they want to go. However, in this post it made me wonder what the character I killed off in book 4 might have thought.
    Challenging thoughts and I very much enjoyed this blog post, thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Susan :). Yes, the characters we kill must wonder why we don't like them :). Although sometimes we kill then because they will have the greatest impact on everyone thats left. Writing is fun, isn't it?

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