Let your characters write their story. They actually know what you want to say.

Novelist Truman Capote once quipped, “You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.”

Sometimes when writing, you’ll feel as if your characters are directing and controlling their own fate rather than you being the one who shapes them. All of them seem to tell you what they’ll say and do. Sometimes their choices may even startle you!

This occurs because if you’ve created characters with specific needs and motivations, to be logically consistent they must react and respond in certain ways. They also must act within the constraints of a standard plot structure. The universe they exist in may further limit or allow for various behaviors and decisions.

Of course, you do not live in the universe you’ve created (though it may be an analog for the one you do live in!). Neither might you have the same motivations and desires as your characters, and certainly your life isn’t restricted by a series of complications followed by a climactic scene in which all the world is set right. That your characters make choices you wouldn’t shouldn’t surprise you. They wouldn’t react any more like you than might your own sibling (In fact, sometimes your brother or sister may actually make decisions that are more similar to yours than your characters!).

That this occurs only points to the beauty of creating. Just as a parent delights at a child growing up to become his or her own independent, self-reliant person, so you should take pride in your story when the same happens. It’s a sign that you’ve done well as a parent!