Here we are again for another Writer Wednesday! Today I have the honor of featuring author Naomi Aoki, who’s here to talk about how characters tend to take on a life of their own and can often take control of the show. So let’s give her a nice welcome and see what she has for us!
Characters Cannot be Tamed
Under the faint glow coming from the nearby street light, Jamie double checked the address on the piece of paper he held. Satisfied this was the right place, Jamie shoved it back in his pocket and stepped up to the front door. His hands shook as he pushed the buzzer and waited, unsure of what would happen next.
I scrawl words across the blank page, letting my mind dictate the scenes as they happen. The story as I envisaged it beginning to unfold itself in shades of black and blue ink. I can see the ending, know the path the characters need to take to reach it and the chapters that need to be written. It isn’t perfect, not at this early stage, a first draft filled with grammatical errors, bad spelling and poorly chosen words. But that is the least of my concerns, compelled to simple get the words out and let the story take shape according to my master plan.
“No. I’ll stay here.”
What? What are you doing? My hand pauses as I stare at the words I’d just written, wondering where they’d come from. This isn’t what I expect to happen I scream at the words, though I don’t expect a reply and push the pen back upon the page hoping to write the character back in the direction I had wanted them to go. I have a plan! A carefully constructed, well thought out plot outline that needs to be stuck too.
Jamie took a deep breath and released it slowly as he tried to calm himself. “Well, it can’t be helped, then.”
I breathe a sigh of relief and place the pen down on the desk, catching it before to rolls off the edge of the desk. Disaster averted, the course of the story heading back in my well-planned direction. I flex my fingers as I stare at the page not realising how hard I’d been gripping the pen during the tightly fought battle and surprised it hadn’t broken. Thankful it hadn’t as ink smeared across the page would wipe out all ground I had gained against the wilful characters in my mind.
“Are you sure?” he whispered, his finger tracing around the edge of the empty cup as it was placed in front of him.
“Yes. Yes, I’m sure,” I answer not even pausing to question why I was talking back to people who existed nowhere else but in my mind on the page in front of me. Editing is hard enough without the input of vocal stubborn characters chattering away inside my head, yet they don’t pause their running commentary. Scenes change. Points of view are altered. And their bickering between each other is no longer confined to the words on the page. I take a deep breath and try to remind myself that they are nothing more than a collection of letters and sounds – an image that I’ve begun to breathe life into – and that I am the master of this story, not them.
Gou stared at the men gathered in his office. Scowls plastered on their faces as they spoke with thinly veiled anger to subordinates on the other end of phones pressed to their ears.
“You’re angry?” I mutter waiting for the character to reply as they once more pull the story away from my carefully constructed plan. No longer do I see them as a jumble of letters and sounds, but fully fleshed sentient beings – even if I’m the only one who sees them, for now. Louder and louder their voices have become, giving their opinion on every scene I’ve written – stubborn creations that they are – and refusing to listen to any advice I might give them. Huffing in frustration I rip the page from the book – delete paragraph after paragraph from the screen – and scrunch it up into a tight ball, throwing it in the direction of the rubbish bin and watching as it bounces out. Not even it is prepared to do what I want.
Watching the exchange was hilarious. Obvious Jamie hadn’t shared all that he did now, or what he’d done.
I have no idea where this story is headed anymore and I’m glad someone finds it funny, because I sure don’t. Each scratch of ink on the page, each tap of the keys on the keyboard has been a hard-fought battle as characters fight amongst themselves – with me – on what happens next. I am ignored. Seen as nothing but a mere tool for scribing down their lives as they dictate it to me. Do we agree on anything anymore, the characters and me? Maybe on just one matter, the need for a Happy-Ever-After, though I’m not sure if it is possible to achieve within the next ten-thousand words. I might need more.
Jamie couldn’t stop grinning as he remembered the stunned expression on Gou’s face.
I don’t like this calm. It’s too calm. And why is he smiling? Yes, the story is heading in the direction I want – not sure how I manged it with all the arguing that went on – but forgive me for thinking it won’t last. Did they think this was all their idea and not mine? I am the writer of this story…. Oh, I am the writer, so maybe I should shake things up a little. Give each these vocal beings in my head a reminder of who is really in charge. Now it is my turn to grin and I begin to write.
A spark of fear shot up Jamie’s spine, but he refused to let dig its claws in. He refused to give in to their demands. “I’m not going anywhere!”
“Good. I’m pleased, you’re finally listening to me.” I sit back and stretch my arms above my head, cracking knuckles as I grin at what I’ve written. The story has begun to move in the direction I want it to take, a miracle considering how far from the original plan it has drifted. But at least the characters are speaking to me with cool even tones and not shouting. No longer are they storming off in unexpected directions, blindsiding me as they duck into dark alleys where danger lurks in the shadows. Death lingers still, an old friend we’ve come to accept will never leave and yet we – the characters and me – have thwarted its every attempt to derail the Happy-Ever-After we are all striving for. I should be grateful for this easy truce that we’ve found, the characters allowing me to write things down with incurring large gaping potholes that will need extensive paving over with words and hoping no cracks appeared later to trip us up later.
“About fucking time,” Kennosuke muttered snatching the box off the desk and disappearing down the stairs.
My story. My timeline. Have they all conveniently forgotten that it is my pen that stands between them and death. An untimely and unwanted death that it maybe, but I won’t hesitate to write one in if they won’t behave and follow my directions once more. Everything had been going so well, but now they move stiffly on the page, fighting each word I write down and ignoring the threat I made. Death it is, I declare to myself and begin to formulate how it should happen and to whom, but they dance out of the way. Ducking and weaving away from my words, tugging each letter until it falls from the page and keeping them safe. Yet, I won’t give up. Refuse to be ruled by my characters and I wrestle with them for control of the story. One of them must die. But words are erased as quick as I write them. Have they gained corporal form? Do they now stand behind my shoulder? Visible to anyone who walks into the room where I work? No. No… they are creations of my own design, existing only in my mind and on the page.
I am the one in charge…
I am the one in control…
Jamie shrugged his shoulders. “We couldn’t keep Gou in hospital after being shot. Twice. So, if Ken wants to leave, let him. I’ll give you the doctor’s number, you’ll probably need it.”
I give up.
The page is yours.
(Excerpts taken from The Yakuza and the English Teacher: Dangerous Lessons; Dangerous Love; Dangerous Life and yet to be titled spin off WIP)
Living in New Zealand as a mother of three teenagers, some days I would love to runaway to Japan or China, but I can’t. Instead I write gay romance stories – under the pen name Naomi Aoki – set in those countries, contemporary and historical eras utilising my -soon to be finished – BA in Chinese with minors in Creative Writing and Japanese (Yes, I studied two languages, at the same time. It was hard – confusing and I wouldn’t recommend it).