Last Monday, I asked the kids: “Do you know what today is? Here’s a hint, it starts with a V.” Second hint: we were packing Valentine’s Day cards for preschool.
Kid #2: Volcano!
Kid #1: Vine!
Phonics, for the win. Using context clues, not so much.
Anyway, writers are like that. Not that they lack comprehension skills or anything. But give a group of writers a premise, or maybe a starting sentence, and they’ll each come up with something different. Writing prompts were my favorite part of English class in High School. Especially when we got to hear what everyone else came up with.
Characters are like that, too. They each react differently, even though you create them all.
Example: back on Valentine’s Day, Kid #1 brought home a bag of candy from her class. I told the kids they could look at it, but they couldn’t eat any until after dinner. Also, I’m cruel like that.
Anyway. Kid #1, being 4 and relatively well-behaved, entertained herself by sorting her candy into piles. Kid #2, being 2, and, um, being 2, took a massive bite out of some sort of cylindrical chocolate thing, wrapper and all. I guess so there’d be no evidence left behind. And he got away with it, too. Right up until the wrapper got stuck somewhere in his esophagus and he started gagging.
Also of note: this is pretty much my life, not just Valentine’s Day.
So, the point: you are not your characters. What you would do is not necessarily what your characters will do. And, if you’re like me, you don’t really know what type of characters you have until you start writing them.
And even though the characters all come from you, like my kids, they’ll each react differently to a situation. Some characters will follow the rules. But some characters will steal the candy. Some will leave the wrappers behind as evidence, not caring about the consequences. Still others will try to eat the whole damn thing.
And sometimes a secondary character will have to come in to induce vomiting.