Most of the time I have a set idea for how my characters are going act, what they’ll say, and what kind of moral fiber they possess…and then they start doing things on their own. Not in a Stephen King-ish kind of way – I don’t write one thing down only to edit later and find my writing to have magically changed (though that would be interesting). No, these changes usually occur when I’m in the zone, fingers flying over the keyboard with no time for second guessing. It’s these moments where listening to my characters helps to keep the story flowing and feeling realistic.
The times that I run into the biggest challenge when writing is when I stop listening to the characters or, worse, willfully ignore what they are trying to tell me. Maybe I don’t want to sully the reputation of my protagonist and so leave out the fact that he just tried to kick his dog. Or perhaps I opt to leave out that my antagonist regularly donates the majority of his money to a cancer research foundation in honor of his deceased mother because that makes him to likeable and human.
These little nuggets of information seemingly come out of nowhere to the reader, but the writer knows that they come from the listening to the character.
What about you? Do you listen to your characters? Ever tried to ignore a character and ended up writing in circles?