When do you get out of the way and let them be who they are? Both the real and made up children - how do you know when to stop molding?
My real life son wanted a Facebook page, so I got on there too, hoping to get the lay of the land and be able to anticipate pitfalls and save him from himself. So far, pretty good, but the other day he posted something to a friend that, in person, would have been a small, all-in-fun dig, but on Facebook came across as mean. I, of course, made him delete the post and apologize publicly. He's young. He'll learn. No real harm done.
What I could have done is ignore it and let him suffer the consequences. Sometimes that's a very good thing. I certainly don't want to become one of those helicopter parents who hover around and constantly fix their children's errors. They never learn consequence and therefore never learn to fix their own errors that way. So how do I know which battle to fight? Plain and simple, I don't. I just guess and use MY best judgement and hope for the best.
Now - translate that to the book - how do I get out of my own way enough for the characters to become alive and not come across like they are my puppets, doing the bidding of the Grand Master? It's a good question. Plain and simple, I don't know that either.
I did write a short story the other day that was Flash Fiction, meaning less than 1000 words. The ending was not coming to me, so I made up something gross that would end it quick and neatly. Then I couldn't get the story to change back to a more "acceptable" ending. I don't write gross, I really don't like it (it had to do with incest - EW!). I learned an interesting lesson though. The story was pretty good.
I think that in writing, sometimes I have to get out of my own way and let the characters drive the story. I may be much happier with how the story ends up. The challenge will be to let go of my controlling nature which manifests itself in every other area of my life. Maybe I'll use this as a place to "let go" and see what happens.