Have you ever finished a story, thanked your cast of fictional characters for their work, wished them well for their future projects, walked away from the story…only to find one or a few characters refuse to leave you alone for WEEKS / MONTHS / YEARS afterwards?
Have you ever had a new character appear in your mind and whilst you spend quality time trying to figure out what the hell to do with them, they set up camp inside your head, watch your every move like a hawk, whisper stuff to you whilst you are busy doing non-writing things and basically stalk you?
In my experience some characters disappear almost immediately from my mind once I have finished their story. They vanish in a fictional puff of smoke and so does all the emotion I built up whilst writing them. However, there are some characters who won’t leave my head once I’ve completed their story. They refuse to obey the, ‘let the draft rest’ phase and continue to nag and pester me.
The main characters from a romantic comedy I wrote over two years ago are still stalking me. In my head they are sat on the sidelines, watching other characters come and go. They never leave and have got used to ignoring my, ‘not ready yet to write the fourth draft, will be back soon, go and amuse yourselves for a few months,’ plea. Their ongoing presence is a little unnerving as the characters from a story I wrote earlier this year have already moved out.
Then there are the characters who turn up UNANNOUNCED and…..wait for it…WITHOUT a PLOT! *Shriek* I used to roll my eyes at writers who claimed characters can appear without a plot. Surely the story line comes first? I would like to now apologise to all those writers out there who I eye rolled. You are right.
The fictional character, who comes with no plot, starts stalking you almost immediately. They are like a new breed of character, fully formed and ready to hit the pages. These crazy folk don’t beat around the creative bush. It is like they have chosen you as their host and you will, eventually, do what they say, as they will just wear you down mentally.
I had the pleasure (and pain) of a character turning up unexpectedly and with no plot last year. She caused havoc! Her stalking abilities were something else.
So, how does one survive being stalked by a fictional character?
After a long discussion on this very subject, at the Annual Bloggers Bash in London on Saturday, with a selection of wise writer friends, the consensus is that the character stalking signifies something important. These are the special characters who you need to do something with. They know they are special and that’s why they give you so much grief.
I was quick to eye roll this theory (I need to stop eye rolling useful advice) and then I delved a little deeper. Every time I think about the romantic comedy I wrote two years ago, I do get emotional. Out of all the stories I have written this one tugs on my heart-strings. It’s the one I know inside out and its the one which constantly sends me character lookalikes in real life. So, maybe this is why they are still stalking me after two years?
If like me, you are constantly searching for ‘the one’ – the story which you will see through to publication, then character stalking is a sign that you should be developing them further. These characters are trying to tell you something.
It is important to note that you have to be careful with new characters who arrive unannounced (with no plot) and start stalking you. Yes their arrival can be positive. My character who arrived last year caused havoc through her obsession with me, but she also took me out of my writing comfort zone.
However they can be a form of creative procrastination. The reason why they won’t leave you alone is because you are usually struggling with another project and these mischievous little beings see an opportunity to have some fun with you, the troubled writer. If you are stuck half way through a draft and can’t face the next thirty thousand words, don’t be surprised if someone new turns up unannounced and starts stalking you. See their stalking for what it really is – distraction!
Have you ever experienced a fictional character who can’t get enough of you?
If you are currently being stalked by a fictional character – you have my sympathies.