I make it awkward for them, I really do – I take every natural reaction a character facing a problem can have, and I do my utmost to make each and every “normal solution” impossible – This, of course, sometimes trips me up as a writer, as well.
Why? Well, it’s easy to paint yourself into a corner along with all your characters if you make natural recourse impossible. Something has to be left to them – or not, as the case may be. Point is, that something wants to be secondary or, better still, way down the list. The solutions simply can’t be easy, or the story is over by page two.
It’s fun doing this and it can certainly get challenging. I try to map out my solutions first, so that the characters can be then guided in that direction, having suitably blocked off all other avenues. It’s the old “What If?” game with as many twists and turns as you like.
In my first book, I managed to lock down my protagonist so well, I had difficulty in getting her out. Aleisha was trying to get out of a unwholesome situation and escape the Khekarians. Introducing Sevi into the mix really stuffed things up, especially when I realized that anything the Good Guys tried would be spotted very quickly and undone. Sevi would be all over them.
What I felt (“Uh-oh, there is no way to achieve this.”), I knew the characters would feel, and so I had the main ones sitting around the table, pretty well saying that very thing. I also know that if anyone could find a way, it would be Jackie who was an ex-soldier and capable of putting together a plan of action.
The dialogue I used brought that into it. Jackie happily admitted that, yes, she knew what to do. I remember thinking, “I wish she’d tell me!” Raoul says something like, “Out with it, then,” as he would, so that was dutifully jotted down, and then I expected a long silence and a blank page until I could come up with something.
To my surprise, Jackie responded at once and outlined the whole thing. Then and there! I could hardly believe it. Not only did she put forward a plan, but it was perfect, it dealt with everything. It could work!
This sort of thing is a total joy to me. I never know what’s going to happen or how next my characters will surprise me, but they do, regularly and delightfully. There I was, having painted myself into a corner, and I was rescued by one of my characters when I allowed her to take over.