Helicopter Writing

The “helicopter parenting” phenomenon exists because some parents refuse to let their child fail or make mistakes, and with those good intentions, they pilot their child’s entire life. All that hovering can make a child stressed and miserable because she is forced to listen to distracting white noise that makes it difficult for her to figure out her own path, let alone move forward on that path.

A lot of the time, writers compare their novels or their characters to children. After all, the writer “begets” the novel and creates and raises the characters. You’d think that make-believe characters that came out of your own imagination would be far, far easier to control than a living, breathing child, and you’d be right.

However, when you do try to control the fictional people in your head, it somehow still doesn’t always work out, even though it seems like it should. I’m not exactly sure why total control of characters never works out, but it is a good thing because if you control your characters too much, they all end up as carbon copies of the author, speaking and acting and reacting exactly as the author would do. Perhaps the urge to hover too closely over our characters and control their every move comes from writing lazily, without truly thinking about where the story is going. When writing just for the sake of getting the words down, writers tend to default to whatever comes easiest, which tends to be ignoring our characters’ individual personalities and choosing their actions from our own perspective.

Then when looking back on the story during revision or editing, we see that our lazy writing has resulted in characters who are not true to themselves. At some point, we were essentially writing on autopilot, helicoptering over our characters and not giving them the freedom to develop as they should. The helicopter parenting phenomenon doesn’t work in exactly the same way because I imagine it would require a great deal of effort on the part of the parent to give his or her life up to control that of his or her child—it wouldn’t be laziness at all. But how much more effort and strength would it take to let go of those controls and let the child pilot his own life?

4 thoughts on “Helicopter Writing”

  1. Sometimes I have to backtrack because I started writing what I want my characters to do only to realize that isn’t what they really would do in that situation. I want what’s best for my characters, but that rarely allows for them to make mistakes and grow, and that’s the stuff that makes an interesting story.


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