Who controls whom? Vargas Llosa on characters who have a mind of their own

Vargas Llosa“It becomes apparent that the author cannot mold characters as he pleases, that they have a certain autonomy.”

– Mario Vargas Llosa

A wonderfully insighful observation by brilliant Spanish-Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. I doubt many authors would question this wisdom.

After all, as writers, you may have clear ideas on how your characters should develop. But any author who has worked to develop his or her character on the page eventually reaches the conclusion that those characters seem to have a mind of their own.

You may have envisioned a character acting a certain way, but once the character emerges on the page he or she has very different ideas and nudges you towards a different treatment.

This is one of the exciting aspects of the creative process, when an author’s creations begin to take life on the page and claim a ‘certain autonomy’. Here’s to embracing the creative process – and fictional characters’ ability to guide the author’s hand. After all, it seems to have worked out quite well for Vargas Llosa …


  1. Claire 'Word by Word' on March 9, 2018 at 8:55 am

    I had this distinct impression reading Elizabeth Strout’s novel of short stories Anything is Possible, they are peripheral characters that we met in her novel My Name is Lucy Barton and it’s as if they refused to leave her mind, demanding their own book, I even said in my review, I wondered of there was one pushy enough to demand their own novel even. We’ll have to wait and find out!

  2. papershots on March 9, 2018 at 11:38 am

    So true

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