Do you drive the story? Or do your Characters?

Driving the Story...jpg

When I am working on a new writing piece I typically start out by planning out who my characters are. Sometimes I get inspired by watching a movie or reading a book, and from there I being the process of creating my main character. Where ever you get your muse, that is the easy part, the hard part is figuring out what to do with them!

Now, once I get that hammered out it is time to start writing. As I get to writing, I normally start with the idea of a scene. That idea eventually grows as I move through the story. However, at some point things just start “writing” themselves. The characters seemly come to life.

I have found that you can set a scene up. Describe it to the last detail, or perhaps in evasive details, and you can even set up what the characters are doing. But then sometimes things just change. For me the characters take on a life of their own.


For instance the main character is having tea with a friend. Now from there you sketch out what they talk about, the mannerisms, what they eat, etc.

Sort of like with Acting. Everything about acting is how the actors “react” to one another. When someone shouts at their partner, the partner has to “react” to what is happening. They either crouch down in the fetal position, cry, scream back or run away. No matter what the reaction is, they make a choice and run with it. That creates the mood, which can be either tense, awkward, sexy, etc.

Characters (1)

Going back to the tea scene, the characters are drinking and talking. Perhaps they are laughing and then suddenly the main character admits she is sleeping with her friend’s husband. What would the other character do at this point?
I put myself in each of my character’s shoes, and think about how I would react. If someone told me they were sleeping with my husband I think I might lash out. But how? And would it be right for the described character? If the character is demure would she lash out like a crazy banshee?  Or if the character was crazy would she cower in her seat, bow her head and cry silently?

How do you decide what your characters do? Do you get inside of their head and play it out, or do you make your characters do what you want them to do? I’d love to hear who drives who when it comes to creating character reactions!

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7 thoughts on “Do you drive the story? Or do your Characters?

  1. In my experience, if I’ve done a really good job creating a character, the character will definitely drive the story! I can’t force them to do what I want anymore than I could force a real person to act — and that’s one of the things that I truly love about writing 🙂 Nice post!


  2. Interesting question. To be fair, other than two short fictional prompts I did awhile back, I have only just written a piece of fiction on my blog. My regular content is different, but I was inspired to write a story about an inscription I found in the front of an old book. Long story short, it went so well and I received a good reaction so I may make it a semi-regular feature. To answer your question, and based solely on these recent stories of mine, I was surprised at how much the characters drove the story. Yes..the initial idea was mine, but the story came to me and was seemingly guided by the characters as if they were beside me at the computer. It was interesting to me because not typically being a fictional writer, I did not know that would necessarily happen, but past the invention of the people in the story, I did not feel I had to drive their story.


    1. completely agree! If you don’t allow your characters to write about themselves then you are writing a piece all about YOU. And where is the depth in that? I don’t think you can or should control all the aspects of your story. Somethings have to happen organically! Thanks for the awesome comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had not thought about it in those terms but you are absolutely correct. It becomes about you. I was just surprised that it naturally flowed into that. Not being a fiction writer I wasn’t expecting that!


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