December 9, 2013
How a Character Can Interrupt Your Story
Sometimes characters do things on their own. Things you don’t want them to do.
You shouldn’t be surprised. It happens in real life too. I learned that lesson the hard way, and once again, through one of my animals. This time the culprit was Briella, the giant Great Dane. It was back when I used to play online poker. After a night of writing, and before I had too much wine, I would sit in the chair with my laptop and play a little poker. Often Brie, or one of the other dogs, would hover over my shoulder. Occasionally they would offer advice. That night it was Brie.
During a game of no-limit hold-em, a player bet $75. The next three people folded, leaving me to act. I was up a few hundred bucks and feeling lucky, so I made a bluff at the pot, raising $250. The people after me folded. It was now just me and the original bettor. He called.
The next card came off, and I still had nothing. The other person bet $300. I stalled for a few seconds, as if I had a decision to make, but I fully intended to fold. Briella had a different idea. Before I could hit the fold button, her massive paw slammed on my laptop and raised—almost $900, which was all I had left. As I watched the clock tick down, waiting for the other person to make their decision, my heart pounded. Depending on this person’s decision I was either going to give Brie some extra treats, or, I was going to threaten to kick her ass. I say threaten because she is too big for me to actually do it.
Now, this would have been a wonderful story if the other person folded, but…they didn’t. They called and I, or should I say Brie, was caught bluffing. Of course we lost. After that, I never played poker with Brie sitting behind me; she’s far too unpredictable.
What Does This Have to Do With Writing?
Sometimes a character does what they want, regardless of what you had in mind for them. You thought you had your plot nailed down, and suddenly—wham—one character or another does something unexpected. How does this happen? It’s easy, and logical. When you write, you create a character based on a specific personality. As the story moves along, that character reacts to situations based on that personality. Sometimes it is not what you anticipated.
The title of this blog was Big Dogs Don’t Bluff. Unfortunately, I discovered they really do.
Tell me what you think
As a reader, or writer, how do you feel about unpredictable characters?