Characters, Dreams, and Fate

June 21, 2010

Has anyone ever dreamed about their characters?

It’s happened to me twice. Once with my very first, very awful novella, and once a few weeks ago. With the dream I had about the awful novella, I met my main character in a theater. And promptly attempted to sock her in the jaw.

If that was my reaction to “meeting” her, maybe it’s no wonder the novella turned out so badly.

Then a few weeks ago, I met R in my dreams. Just for clarity’s sake, R is not human… she’d like to be, but she’s not. At some point, she’ll have to make a sacrifice that brings her face-to-face with pretty much everything she fears. I’m already eagerly anticipating/dreading that scene.

Because, in my dream, she was so frightened.

She was so scared, and I all could do was hold her. Hold her, and promise her everything would be all right. Of course, I knew I was lying to her.  And when I woke up… gaahh, a huge part of me wanted to just change things, make things easier for her. But I can’t do that. As much as I want to, I can’t. This trial, this sacrifice she has to face is just so right. Right for the plot, for my themes. Right for her own personal growth. Even as I’m writing this, I can feel myself recoiling, half-laughing at myself for caring so much about a situation and a person that don’t exist.


It’s interesting. On one hand, the author is God. Deus ex machinae can fly from the fingers like Zeus’s lightning bolts. In practice, however, it doesn’t quite work like that. In any story, any character, there is a logical framework that must be obeyed. You cannot break the rules you’ve established. Unless you have a good reason, but even then, it’d better be a damn good one. It’s kind of like my musing on time paradoxes. You could travel back in time and kill your grandfather, but you never do. You could change your writing to accomodate your favourite characters, but (hopefully) you never do. If something would never happen, is it just as impossible as if it never could?

You create the logic, and then the logic binds you to it. So, if we’re really and truly being faithful to our own creations, how much control do we have over them? It’s as though, in some cases, you can only seize control by breaking that faith. Action, reaction. Act, consequence. And look at our language- “I saw the way to fix it,” “The solution came to me.”  When this happens, we didn’t change anything. We merely had an insight into a pre-existing framework, like when you fill in the Sudoku square that unlocks the entire puzzle.  

I don’t mean to reduce writing and fiction to cold logic. Life works the same way- we make choices that are consistent with our personalities, processes within the natural world inevitably effect certain changes. Event creates event creates event. Once the first domino falls, how do we stop the others? If we don’t want to break trust with the world of the story, and our readers, I don’t know that we can.

I’m sorry, R.



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