Something wonderful happened last night. I suddenly knew that the grandmother in my new book was a hypochondriac. I had known she had some sort of serious psychological disorder, but I didn't know what.
This project began when I decided I wanted to explore some issues in my own life more deeply. I felt I could use these details to weave a compelling story.
But the problems began almost immediately. I never seem to be able to write about real life. Here's why: real life intrudes. My characters are all living, breathing people in their own right. And if I try to take someone out of real life and plop her exactly as she is into my story, the character rebels. So the grandmother in my story was rebelling. I had pegged her as having a number of fairly serious psychological issues but then she just sat there on the page refusing to talk.
After brooding about this for awhile, I finally, finally returned to the most important thing - the story. What would move the story ahead? Grandma could have a condition, it just had to be a condition that would mesh with the story, be important to the other characters and add something. And then in a flash, I knew: she was a hypochondriac. A serious one, at that.
With one swoop of the keyboard, I'll change that real life person into a character and the story will be the winner.
How do you feel about molding characters? Do they do what you want them to do or do they rebel?