The character debate

Does the writer control the characters or do the characters reveal themselves as the story progresses?
These two opposing quotes speak to the problem, or so it seems to me:

“A good novelist never makes his characters speak; he listens to them.” Margaret Laurence

“That trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills. My characters are galley slaves.” (Vladimir Nabokov)

Your opinion?

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6 responses to “The character debate

  1. Great quotes! I’ve always been on the follow-the-character-and-learn side of things, but in my new book, I’m acting as puppeteer. The plot is pulling me through this draft more than the protagonist, and as such, I’m falling a little closer to the Nabokov side. Then again, although my character lands in situations I’ve made for him, he’s reacting on his own schedule and by his own methods. That part I’m not controlling, and I think that’s where the freshness and delight will come from (rather than the whole thing feeling scripted because I’m sticking so close to that outline).

  2. As he places the final touches on a short story about a serial killer, what does sami116’s comments mean to me, he says within the deep recesses of his mind. 🙂

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