I recently had a conversation with someone regarding authoring books, specifically fiction. This person seemed to be under the impression that being an author was a bit like playing with puppets. You dangle your characters on the end of a string and jerk the paddles, making them dance or twirl or walk or collapse on the stage.
You know, that would be pretty cool. If I didn't like someone, I could just toss them off a railroad trestle or send them on a looooonnnnggg boat trip to Antarctica. If a character felt superfluous, they could suddenly contract Hepatitis B, which would progress much more quickly than doctors would anticipate, and voila, no more character.
The longer I write, though, the more I'm finding I'm not as much in control of my characters as what I would have assumed. I find that they don't like their feelings/emotions/characteristics messed with.
As an example: one of my characters in a book I recently finished is a loyal, wonderful young man. He's tenacious to his goals, and he refuses to give them up, even when the odds seem overwhelming. Switch to me, who knows the ending of the story and of the series, and realizes that this young man will have to walk through fire before it's all said and done, and all his efforts may yet be for naught.
I want like everything to smooth the road for him, to lead him along a path blooming with daisies and roses, and let him step into his happily-ever-after, and who cares about the consequences for everyone else that his ending affects? I seriously considered scrapping the ending and letting this young man and his compatriots have their perfect, albeit fluffy, ending.
But as my mind went over the character I'd worked hard to mold in him, the loyalty, the never-say-die attitude, his idealistic world view, I found I couldn't do it.
Sure, I could force his character into a jello mold and make the story come out sunshine and roses for everyone, but in so doing, I would lose the best part of this young man.
So as sad as it makes me, I will watch his character walk through the fires of his future, knowing that even though it's no fairy tale, his character will stick with me, in my thoughts, in my future writings, maybe even for the rest of my life.
There's a valuable life lesson we could all take away from this. But I won't spell it out. I think, if you really think about it, you'll figure it out. ;)