When Characters Come To Life

by limebirdsally

In my last post I wrote about a residential writing workshop I went on a few years back and it reminded me of a moment of pure idiocy when I allowed one of my characters to hijack me. I’d spent the afternoon writing a scene in my room where a couple of the teen characters were flirting with each other and another character, missing the flow of harmless flirtation put them on the spot by saying, “Are you a couple?” As an aside this particular character was always intended to be sweet and naive, but ended up really annoying me, but hey, characters like to take a life of their own.

I was on cooking duty with a man and woman in their mid forties who’d come to the course together. For some reason instead of just introducing myself I blurted out, “Are you a couple?”

Are you a couple??? What a ridiculous thing to say over, I don’t know, how about, “Hello, my name’s Sally?” The phrasing of the question wasn’t mine, nor was its directness but for some reason at that moment my brain chose to quote my annoying character. The people I’d accused of being a couple exchanged a glance as they moved slightly further apart from each other and said no.

What I didn’t find out until the journey home at the end of the week – and what apparently everyone else on the course had already worked out at the point I was making my daft remark – no this wasn’t a couple. They were in fact both married to other people but had come on the writing course to give themselves the privacy to finally submit to their long-repressed love for each other, a not-so-closely-guarded secret by the level of noise endured by their neighbours on the first night!

So thanks stupid, naive character for spilling out into real life and making me sound stupid and naive myself!

Have your characters ever come to life and made you say or do daft things?

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34 Comments to “When Characters Come To Life”

  1. It was the couple who should have beenred-faced not you.

    • He-he. I think they were a little caught off-guard by the question although it was a few days before I found out why!

  2. I love it when characters grow into something more than what I’ve originally envisioned for them or their role, but I’ve never had one hijack me to such an extent! What a funny anecdote! It sounds like your character came to life in more ways than one! 🙂

    • Hmm, perhaps I should create a lovely, funny character who never makes any mistakes or gets annoyed about anything and just lives a happy, chilled out life!

  3. I’ve never had a character hijack me, but I certainly recognize the stupid naive self-judgment. And as to the comment above about them being red-faced: Judge not lest ye be judged.

  4. Since I write memoirs, I’d have to say a big fat YES to your question! 😉

    • That must be quite strange as we do change as people so writing about your younger self must be a bit like writing about someone else at times. I could see that being quite lovely for constantly reminding yourself who you are and seeing how you’ve grown.

  5. That’s a riot, Sally. Yes, that happened to me once. A long time ago, I was taking a creative writing course in high school, so I was about fifteen years old. We were supposed to write about a character from another country. I chose Scotland, and for a while I studied the dialect and phrasing of what a Scottish gal might say in a particular situation.

    Anyway, I was studying this in the park, trying to find some peace and quiet when I was caught off guard by someone asking for directions.

    I replied in a Scottish accent!

    Well, I realized it too late but what could I do? I had to keep giving her directions in that accent, sure I sounded like a complete idiot.

    When I was done, the woman thanked me. Then said, “You have a lovely Scottish accent. Are you here visiting family?”

    • That’s hysterical! My best pal’s Scottish and I’ve spent years trying to get his accent down, but I can only really do it by directly repeating what he says. Your accent must have been pretty good to convince her!

  6. Maybe you made them think twice 🙂

    • I don’t know if they were any more discrete after that seeing as I was oblivious to it all anyway! I didn’t even get suspicious when they both skipped one morning lesson to go to the beach!

  7. Despite my characters’ somewhat dominating approach to their novels, none of them has ever ambushed me like that! Of course, I can’t remember how many times I’ve managed to say something naive all on my own. 😉

    And I think 4amWriter’s experience has all the makings of a great short story about character possession…. 🙂 I just hope none of my characters get any ideas from that!

    • I’m not generally naive – if anything I’m annoyingly cynical, so I quite enjoyed the feeling when I found out. Naive people tend to be a lot more sweet-natured, which sadly I could never be accused of. I’m sure one day Maddy will get you when you’re least suspecting it!

  8. They must have thought you were like the guy in Mentalist and wondered what had given them away. 🙂

  9. As my sister says, no one can know something until they know it! Give yourself a break!)

  10. Oh that is too funny!! I can’t say anything like that has ever happened to me.

  11. Sally, what a funny story, tho I agree with Pat Bean, the couple should be red-faced, not you. They had to be giving off clues; something you saw that made you think of a couple even if it didn’t register in your conscious thoughts.

    I can’t say I’ve ever had my characters hijack me like that, tho to be honest I do a good enough job myself of saying the wrong thing in conversation. For that reason (it never fails)I keep to myself a lot. A lot.

  12. Heh, it was a roleplay character who did that to me. Funny as hell, just a normal, grown up conversation and then in comes this half-elf adolescent with an attitude problem. I wish I could remember what the exact context was, but the clearest part for me in looking back on the conversation in a couple of hours and thinking; ‘Good grief, that was Shaniqua talking!’

  13. Hehe oops! They haven’t made me do anything yet, I’m nervous now though 🙂

  14. Ohh Sally, this sounds like something that would completely happen to me. I always manage to say the wrong things at the wrong times! Great post, really enjoyed it!

  15. I say dumb stuff all the time – no fictional help needed.

    As for writing memoirs (earlier comments). I DETEST thinking about who I was growing up. No warm-fuzzy feelings there. I seem to remember all the dumb stuff I did. It’s like an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, with me staring in each one… blech!

  16. Oh dear! Your post has a story written all over it. We’ve all stuck our foots in our mouths before. 🙂 I remember an incident where I was on vacation with my husband (now ex). We were shopping in a small mom and pop store. I cozied up to him and started stroking his arm, all the while babbling away while I was admiring some shiny thing. It dawned on me that the store had become rather quiet. My words fizzled out as I looked up and realized I was stroking the arm of a stranger! Fortunately, he had the grace to grin and cut a joke as the entire shop busted out laughing. My husband never let me live it down. Mortification at its finest!

    • Brilliant – how embarrassing! Even if they are a bit mortifying at the time it’s great to be able to look back on silly things like that and just laugh about it!

  17. LOL. Clearly your mind read the body language. 😉 Sometimes my characters have lines they say that came from somewhere in my life. We have the opposite problem where they steal from my life. But sometimes when I’m in a character’s POV for too long, I tend to act a tad like her for a few hours in my own life. 🙂

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