Who says we understand our characters?

One of the characters in one of my current projects … I think she’s been lying to me.

I realized this rather abruptly today. Not just lying about a few small things. Lying about who she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing. Lying about her entire role in the story, and why that story is happening. Lying to me and to every character on stage.

And she’s been doing this for a draft and a half.

It’s hard to write when you keep wanting to stop to curse at one of your characters in not-polite language. Even while admiring her at the same time, and feeling a sort of grudging sympathy.

And even while knowing you might wake up tomorrow and discover that, no, she isn’t lying after all, and what was I thinking? Of course the story is what it seems, and if anyone was lying to me it was my own brain for thinking otherwise.

Whenever this happens, I remember the boy in an early project who shifted into a wolf unexpectedly as I was writing.

“You can’t be a wolf,” I told him. “There are no shapeshifters in this world. And besides, you don’t even believe in magic.”
He just looked at me, and shrugged. “But I am,” was all he said.

Even the fact that he lived in a place that hadn’t seen real wolves for more than 100 years didn’t deter him. The brat.

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