On the Ancient Art of Characters “Coming to Life”

The power of the below experience has lost none of its potency. I find it as true today as it’s ever been.

My fellow writers, enjoy.

The below content was originally posted at my prior blog, Stunk’s Stage on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 at 8:26 am.



By C.J. Stunkard


I know of few greater joys a writer can experience than having a character run away with the script. It’s truly a joy, witnessing a being you’ve essentially created take the idea or thought you have given them and just embrace it, demanding valuable page space to make their point or express themselves. This could take the form of the character doing something unexpected or simply redirecting a conversation. Regardless, the character’s actions alter and change a scene from what one originally expected into something new–something that’s usually more organic (and, thus, more entertaining and engaging); and I love experiencing this. It’s exciting.
I had a character named BRUCE pull this on me last night, while I was working on my latest script. I was intending to have him respond quickly to a person’s ignorant remark, but his correction quickly became an explanation and analysis of something else–it became a true outgrowth of something building up in him that I had not realized, and it was exhilarating to type. I hadn’t expected this to happen, and I assume readers (or viewers, should it come to that) will not either.
I love when this happens, when my little plans for my little characters in my little story turn out to be broader, larger, and deeper than I had intended. Sometimes, I wonder if God gets a similar type of joy from us. I certainly don’t think anything we do “surprises” God; but oftentimes we surprise ourselves, and I wonder if he finds great joy in that, in our discovery of the depth and insight that he has given us, which we had previously never recognized nor thought possible.
This latest script, as I continually reference it, has been really up-and-down. I’ve been horrible at making the time to work on it; but when I have, I’ve always been encouraged (except that first night, when I wrote drivel of the most hackneyed and banal type [but it’s good that I did, because my reaction to the dull nature of those initial pages led to something much more interesting] ). I have resigned myself to the idea that I will need a 15-day extension into April to finish, but I’ll do it; and I’m looking forward to all the e-mails I’m going to get saying, “I don’t get this.” (actually, upon a momentary reflection, I’m not looking forward to that at all…maybe I don’t want feedback on this one. =)