It’s unbearably cheesy when writers say things like “My characters always surprise me!”
Or, as the constantly problematic Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander novels) once said: “When [the protagonist] walked into the scene, I had no idea who she was or what she’d do. All of the men in the room were staring at her, but I didn’t know why. Then she opened her mouth and started talking like a modern woman. I fought with her for several pages, trying to make her talk like an 18th century woman, but she just kept talking like a smart-alecky modern woman. It’s all [her] fault there’s time travel in ‘Outlander.'”
Stuff and nonsense, say I!
I don’t hold to this theory of character at all, ostensibly because it’s really corny but actually because it makes me jealous.
Characters mystify me. I have to plan them with a lot of help from the Enneagram and outlines and research and preparation. I spend a lot of time fighting to imagine what these non-me people might do or feel in the plot’s circumstances. I resent these authors who pretend to have a whole dramatis personae volunteering to live comfortably inside their head.
But just the other day I learned that one of my characters has the hots for another one, and I don’t know how else to say it but that. She was on stage to do one thing, and she started staring at him on a horse and having feelings about it.
I guess it’s like playing piano: there’s more going on when you write than what is conscious. And whatever small part of me is that character—well, she just wanted me to know how she felt. She felt that he looks damn good.