Creative Fiction Writing Workshop: Interaction of the Character and the Story

In creative fiction writing, the author needs a framework, but his/her characters have some freedom within the framework.

A good story must have a basic framework to hang upon. There are two basic approaches to framework creation. One approach is to create a detailed outline of the order of events in the story from the beginning to the end and have the final product be a fully fleshed out version of the outline.

Another method is to have a basic overall picture of where the story will go and some of the important events that will occur along the way, including a rough idea of how the tale should end. In this second approach, the story is given more freedom to unfold and the author may even surprise himself or herself. In fact, in this approach the author might well be writing to find out what happens.

Regardless of whether you are a storyteller who prefers a greater structure on which to hang a story or whether you are a storyteller who prefers more spontaneity, there will always be a dynamic relationship, an interaction, between the tale that is being crafted and the characters developed to inhabit that story and bring it to life.

Many beginning authors fall into the rigid mindset that, “I am the author. I create the story. I know how I want my story to end and what is going to occur along the way.” This isn’t always true. Your characters may sometimes have different ideas. They have a certain amount of control over the story. This is true regardless of which basic story framework style you choose to follow.

As a good storyteller, you have endeavored to create your characters’ personalities in a detailed manner so that if someone ran into them on the street that person would recognize the characters. Based on the personality established for a given character, one can predict how the character will react in most situations since every person can be somewhat predictable. Once you as an author have figured out this basic pattern and you give the character a similar situation, will she always react that same way? The answer surprises some people. It is a resounding: Not always. Real people are oftentimes inconsistent and will end up surprising you.

Therefore, to have a believable character, you must make the character behave like a real person and allow him or her to sometimes do the unexpected, or, otherwise, you have created a robot your readers will not like. Therefore, don’t force the story on the character. Sometimes the story will have to be adapted to fit the character.

Nevertheless, when you break the character’s general trends, it absolutely must be believable. The event should not sound like a false note that distracts the reader. At the same time, it is all right to have some notes that stick out as long as they do not detract from the work as a whole. This is a balance you as a storyteller will have to practice and play around with. But while playing around, remember just as you should not force the story on the character, you should not force the character on the story. Story and character interact and create something bigger than either one alone.

This dynamic interaction is the magic of story creation that will inspire your readers to visit your world frequently.

Kat Jaske ©2006 All rights reserved