“My characters surprise me constantly. My characters are like my friends—I can give them advice, but they don't have to take it. If your characters are real, then they surprise you, just like real people.”
- Laurell K. Hamilton
When Astrid first walked into my life, I pictured someone tough, a little alternative, and with a big, good heart. Early on I imagined part of the story line would include her having or getting a tattoo across her chest. I want a tattoo across my own chest, but since I can't foresee a time when I will have the nerve or gumption to do it, I thought I could live vicariously through Astrid. I wrote a scene that includes the tattoo, and I love it so much.
Now Astrid is fully formed. And she's tamer than I first imagined. She's got a good head on her shoulders. She's thoughtful, composed, and measured. And she's telling me that the tattoo isn't her thing. I can't as clearly see when getting a tattoo would fit into Astrid's backstory. I've been so disappointed since she hinted to me that the tattoo was a no-go.
I can really relate to Laurell K. Hamilton's quote. Astrid IS real to me, and she's surprised me with this no-tattoo stance. What's surprised me most is the fact that I'm having to persuade a character of my own creation to do something I want her to do. I can suggest that getting the tattoo is a good idea until the cows come home, but if she doesn't want the tattoo, I can't force her. It just won't work in the story.
I want Astrid to have the tattoo—badly. But only if it works. If it makes sense. If Astrid can be convinced that it's the right thing to do for the integrity of the story. She and I have been going back and forth. For awhile I was convinced that the tattoo was a dead issue, but I couldn't let it go, so I kept pondering how I could naturally fit it into her story. I think I may have come up with a way to convince Astrid, but it will require convincing her grandmother, Phoebe first.
I was not prepared for negotiating with imaginary characters when I started writing this book, but it's just part of the territory, and I'm used to it now. It adds to the mystery and mystique that is novel writing.