One night late, soon after my husband and I first got married, we were sitting in our office and I was finishing a movie script that was to be presented to Shirley MacLaine by a producer friend fo mine who lived in Venice Beach. All of a sudden I hear Bob asking me “what’s so funny?”. His question caused me to snap out of my writing “trance” and I answered “I didn’t know she was going to take him there for lunch so when she did it was really funny.” His question was of course “What do you mean you didn’t know…aren’t you in charge…you’re wrting the story.” That was a great opportunity to explain to him that when I’m really in my writing groove I really don’t write a story I observe what’s happening and record what happens. Sort of like watching a movie with your keyboard and screen in front of you.
Long story short I listen to my characters. In fact they don’t really know I’m listening otherwise they may say or do something different from what they normally would do.
The last thing you want your reader to feel is that they were manipulated by the characters doing things that don’t make sense given their back story, circumstances, immediate environment, other characters they’re interacting with and so on. While that sometimes works to drive the plot along you can’t make a career of writing characters that are illogical and nonsensical as they live out the story and their role in the story.
As Bob would tell you, the characters really do talk to me as I write and they do things that given the situation and characters involved that fit them.
One of my biggest challenges recently was the writing of After MIdnight. To get my head into the head of the detective, Sam Wilson, I had gone on several ridealongs over several years as I worked through the plot and the behaviors of the police and even their friends.