You let them.
In writing, much like raising children, you can nurture and build a character, develop their traits and the way they speak, move, and think. But in the end when their actions dictate where the story should go the best thing to do is go with it.
I have tried for years to create these wonderfully detailed story outlines on what the characters would say and do, the way they would react in a scene and I have as of yet, never been correct.
I know it seems weird, I mean these are my creations, these are people that run around in my head until I put them on paper. Sometimes they linger, hanging around waiting to see what happens next, but they are all very strong, determined and independent.
Really good characters, the ones that stick and haunt your dreams until you have no choice but tell the story that they keep nagging you about, are like errant teenagers. They will nag, harass and throw epic temper tantrums until you write I down. They will scream at you in the middle of a meeting, when you are trying to concentrate on the information being presented. They will sneak up on you in the shower, and distract you while you’re driving until you give in. They sit, like a little shelf elf, in the back of your mind reminding you every so often that they are still there and they are still waiting. I’m talking to you Lycia Monglove. You were the worst offender.
I had planned this beautiful faery tale with the beautiful silver haired Lycia living on a far off moon, spending time with her sandy haired and beautiful make best friend who secretly loved her. She was going to fall for the bad boy from a warring tribe and conflict would ensue.
That is not the tale told in my recently completed YA story Dayfall. Instead Lycia, has become a strong willed, though diminutive, warrior who nixed the entire thing by falling for the “friend” and pretty quickly and effectively dashing all vestige of a love triangle. She turned her soft hearted friend and confidant into a sexy, soft spoken and strong love interest with a drool worthy body, when he was supposed to be a mild mannered calming influence. He was supposed to be her Ducky, for Christ’s sake!! He’s more like her own personal Jaime Frazer!!! (Yes, that is a blatant Outlander reference.)
In a society where women are the dominant, warrior class, the hunter-gathers and men the domesticated partners, she turned everything sideways with one act that came out of left field even for me. And I was writing the dang thing. So, I fought to change the direction, bring the story back to what I had envisioned. She would have none of it. Every word felt wrong and forced making it harder for me to progress. Every time I tried, I could hear the little warrior in my ear telling me, in her strange hybrid accent that is something between Scottish and Cajun in my head, she would whisper:
“Go with it. It only gets better from here.”
And she was right.
You let them.