Guess who I found roaming around? I grabbed Dale Mayers and brought her inside to join us. I conned her into blogging for us. Please make her feel at home.

Are your kids characters? Or are your characters kids?

First off, many thanks to Mary for the invitation to blog here today.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo right now, a writing effort to produce 50,000 words in the month of November. Every week we receive a pep talk email from one of the many people behind NaNoWriMo. On one of them, the author was talking about dealing with loss of control in real life and enjoying having control in her writing world. I found it an interesting topic as I often feel I have too tight a control of my life. Out of necessity. I’m a single mother of four of which the top three positions are all held by tall, testosterone pumping males.

It was mandatory to be the boss when they were smaller - in order to avoid being run over by their maturing power tromping ways. The only way I could maintain command was by being the one firmly in control. My strategy for surviving motherhood used writing as an escape.

That’s why I started with writing romance, always creating that same happy-ever-after. I can’t 100 percent blame my shift to gritty romantic suspense (occasionally butting up against the horror genre) on the kids – or can I? I do know that in the beginning, there was a need to actually have my characters do what they were told to do - when my own kids wouldn’t.

But then I found that my characters didn’t appreciate being told what to do anymore than my kids did. It took me a long time to realize that outlining for me fell into the same category. My stories also didn’t welcome being ‘controlled.’

Maybe it’s when I realized I needed to loosen up more as a mother/father combo or maybe it was realizing that there is a time and place to give the kids their chance to succeed or fail on their own, or maybe the loosening up happened as my kids grew older and learned to respect the rules – and me. Either way, I managed to let them do more - only to hear my characters sitting on the sidelines saying, “Hey, what about us?”

The result? I gave up ALL attempts to direct my characters and let them walk all over me. Sigh. The good news is that just like my kids who have learned to make good decisions, my characters are just as decisive about their actions and just as honest with their reactions to the often surprising outcomes.

Now if only I could teach them all patience – even my sons. My characters tend to sit on my shoulder and prod me into higher productivity – arguing and cheering until they are happy with the story. There are actually times where I have to delete entire paragraphs because they don’t like them and won’t let me move on until I make it right.

One saving grace with letting my characters lead is that when they get uppity, if they too nasty or too out of control, discipline is easy – there’s always the delete button. The kids now...that’s a different story!

So what about the rest of you? Are your characters children to you? Do they behave? Or do they try to control your waking thoughts? Have personality traits of your own children slipped into your characters? Or are they completely unique? Have you read a book where you knew the author had to be talking about your kids?

FINALIST - BRAVA WRITING CONTEST- 2nd Round Voting now on!


  1. ArkansasCyndi // November 23, 2010 at 12:35 AM  

    Hi Dale. Thought provoking post.

    What I do know is that I can't force it. It I make my characters do things they don't want to, it will stall my writing. I know something's wrong and I'll stop writing and just think...let the characters tell me how I got their story wrong.

    And like you, I've deleted long paragraphs (hell, entire chapters) because my characters refused to talk to me until I did! LOL

    Good luck with BRAVA.

    Everyone - follow the link and vote for Dale's BRAVA entry - Tuesday's Child.

  2. Scarlet Pumpernickel // November 23, 2010 at 12:56 AM  

    My characters are definitely unruly children. They like to do what they want and don't want me to tell them what to do. The only way to get them to behave at all is to let them have their head.

  3. Mary Marvella // November 23, 2010 at 1:08 AM  

    Good morning, Dale. Welcome!

    Hey, Cyndi and Scarlet.

    My characters do what they want to do and I find they do more interesting things than I would have thought to have them do.

  4. Autumn Jordon // November 23, 2010 at 7:36 AM  

    Hi, Dale. Welcome to the Pink Fuzzy Slippers.

    I'm a panster. As in any relationship, sometimes I led and others times my characters take the steering wheel. They still need directions however, like my four children (3 boys & 1 girl too) needed when first learning to drive. Sometimes they come out with the out-of-the-box idea I was searching for.

    Good Luck on your contest.

  5. Edie Ramer // November 23, 2010 at 10:18 AM  

    Dale, I tried outlining a couple times and sticking to it. The books came out blah and stiff. When I just write, with a few plot points in mind, it gets interesting. It's fun when they surprise me and do things I would never have thought of.

    Yes, I know it must come from my unconscious mind, but it feels as though it comes from them.

  6. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 10:58 AM  

    Hi Cindi! Don't you love it when the characters rule! I might fool myself into thinking I'm the boss of my stories, but I'd be lying - my characters boss me around.

    Thanks for all the good wishes and stopping by to say hi!

  7. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 11:04 AM  

    Good morning Scarlet! Isn't it interesting how we bow down to our characters lead. The thing is if that is how our system works, doing anything different messes us up!

    Have a great day - with those unruly children!


  8. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

    Good morning Mary - I always feel like such a sleepy head because I'm on the West Coast and get moving so much later than the rest of you!

    Thanks for having me here today. So you let your characters lead too huh? I wonder what percentage of us write this way?

    I agree though, my characters always find their way into very interesting scenarios - and not always easy ones to get out of!

  9. Cyrano // November 23, 2010 at 11:31 AM  

    Kudos to you for doing the Nano! I should have participated, but I was worried I wouldn't write anything.
    And a huge kudos to you for being a single mom raising four kids!!! You rock!
    I suppose the characters in my books, the females at least don't mirror my children, but bits and pieces of myself. My heroines are usually headstrong, sarcastic, goofy, and willing to inhale junk food by the truckload. But my newest novel, a paranormal erotic romance, has a heroine who is very different from myself. She's sweet and kind, and thinks of others first. I tend to be more on the "back up, you're in my space" type of chic:)
    I'm actually enjoying writing her. she's a challenge for sure.
    Good luck to you with your Nano challenge, have a happy Thanksgiving, and a wonderful holiday season!

  10. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 11:31 AM  

    Hi Autumn, Four kids too huh. We are gluttons! I know some writers that have their characters all set up, backgrounds locked too and GMCs sorted but I find that even when I try to do this, my characters bring up something in conversation about their past or dreams that I never knew about.

    I think that's part of the fun of writing for me, my characters become friends and I learn so much more about them through our interaction as I write.

    Thanks for stopping by today - have a great day!

  11. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 11:36 AM  

    Hi Edie!!!!

    Tuesday's Child was like that for me. I followed the book First Draft in 30 Days. I hated what happened. The magic was GONE! AND it stalled my writing for years. Lesson learned, I'm a pantser who uses, like you, a few plot points as directional goals.

    For me there's nothing quite like that first blank page of a new book, knowing the journey is about to begin.

    Congrats on getting Dead People out there too!! You multi-pubbed author you!

  12. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 12:06 PM  

    Hi Cyrano! Nano is funny for me. I enjoy it. I love the challenge. But I'm always so happy to see it end! There is one more week today!

    If you want to try it next year, holler! We have a great support system.

    I like that you are writing a character unique to you. We so often have an idea of our heroines ahead of time, and it shows your willingness to write HER story and not just YOUR story this way.

    Happy thanksgiving to you too!!!


  13. Amy Atwell // November 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM  

    Dale, as always, you amaze me. I love that parenting led you to writing, and writing impacted your parenting. I agree that it's important to let characters lead the story. Chances are, if they surprise you, they'll also surprise your readers.

  14. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 12:59 PM  

    Hi Amy, It's so nice to see you here! Your comment on writing and parenting is so true - especially after watching my daughter inhale on of my YA manuscripts I just let her read. Her reactions took me back over thirty years to when I was that age!

    I realize that the more I can connect with my daughter,the more I connect with my characters. And the more I connect with both of them - the more they connect to each other.

    If her reaction is anything to go by, my daughter and this YA character have become fast friends lol

  15. Mary Marvella // November 23, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

    Love that your daughter is reading your book and loving it. YESS!!!

  16. Nightingale // November 23, 2010 at 2:48 PM  

    My characters run the story, and I find it difficult (particularly one of them) to make them take directions. I am currently doing a rewrite on my favorite hero's story and have deleted (bleeding over each word) quite a lot, including one whole chapter. I have 2 sons and understand where you're coming from there.

  17. Patrice // November 23, 2010 at 2:53 PM  

    Hi Dale, and welcome!
    It was fun reading your post, but I don't seem to have your problem with my characters taking the lead. They are very real to me, not children, but mature adults that have the same real problems, hangups, insecurites as the rest of us, and it's always interesting to see how they are going to grow and eventually work things out. Isn't writing fun?

  18. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 2:59 PM  

    Hi Mary - I wish I could have taken a video of her when she was reading it. Her toes kept curling and uncurling, she kept gasping and making little cries. I couldn't work for watching her out of sheer enjoyment!


  19. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 3:02 PM  

    Hi Nightingale - deleting can be so hard! That's one of the reasons why I like to put a book away for awhile - it lets me detach! At least that's the theory. Have you tried letting this character have the lead? It might an interesting experiment to see where they end up going!

    Yeah, sons...what a joy and challenge!

    Have a great day!


  20. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 3:13 PM  

    Hi Patrice, I wonder if my role in my family is the mom with the kids that I look at my characters as kids?? Interesting point to consider.

    I love the differences that show between writers, it's what makes our books so unique!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  21. Mary Marvella // November 23, 2010 at 4:13 PM  

    I apologize for the way the fonts keep changing on the blog. Seriously, I thought I had it fixed last night. Dale didn't send it to me looking so wonky.

  22. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 4:54 PM  

    Lol on the fonts. On any given day, I COULD have sent you something that was wonky - thankfully this one I didn't.

    It's all good.

  23. Beth Trissel // November 23, 2010 at 10:59 PM  

    Hello and welcome to the Fuzzies Dale. I really enjoyed your post. The subject is one I've given much thought to, and had quite a lot of experience with. Difficulties too. My characters are extremely determined individuals. We must come to an understanding, one that suits them, before I can make any headway in my writing.

  24. Dale Mayer // November 23, 2010 at 11:06 PM  

    Hi Beth - glad to know it's not just me with strong willed characters lol. It's a part of the preplanning no one talks about - plotting, GMC, negotiate with characters...

    Can you imagine a seminar at the Nationals on this topic??


  25. Judy // November 24, 2010 at 8:28 AM  

    Loved your post, Dale! Especially the delete button! You're right, though, you have to have just the right balance between control and letting their spirits grow!

  26. Dale Mayer // November 24, 2010 at 10:47 AM  

    Hi Judy - you are so right - balance, balance and more balance. I find it so amazing that something on paper like a story breathes and grows with life and takes on a personality all its own - to the point the characters require guidance and control!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  27. Mary Ricksen // November 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM  

    I don't think I could control them if I tried my darn-est! Plotting is like a foreign language to me.
    My characters speak I listen!
    Good luck with NaNo!And a hardy welcome to the PFS blog!

  28. Dale Mayer // November 24, 2010 at 12:59 PM  

    Hi Mary!

    Ahh, the voice of experience - I'm learning to listen when my characters speak, but there can be a bit of a power struggle involved. Usually between what I want to happen and what ends up happening. lol.

    Thanks for the warm welcome and the best wishes for Nano - I'm still going strong - over 72,000 so far.


  29. Joanne // November 28, 2010 at 2:40 PM  

    First, a belated welcome to the Pink Fuzzies blog, and thank you, Mary, for hosting Dale.

    My characters definitely run the show. They give me the first paragraph or two, and then they're off.

  30. Dale Mayer // November 28, 2010 at 8:45 PM  

    Hi Joanne,

    Thanks for the belated welcome! It's nice no matter when it happens. Mary is such a sweetheart for inviting me here!

    I'm glad your characters are so generous as to give you the first couple of paragraphs!