"The story tells itself." Impossible. And yet that's my experience, too.
I would have said all my stories are “character driven” until I read your post. I attempt to represent teens that inspire me, composites of people I met in schools and hospitals. By placing them in a particular setting or situation (often one I myself did not know how to handle) I can watch them and report the story they unfold. On second thought, I realize several of my stories began with an action or event that kept me awake at night: the kidnapping of a local girl my own daughter’s age, a girl’s bizarre secret home life, a boy going to school and coping with a single mother who’s floridly psychotic. These events generated the idea to write the books and spurred the characters’ behavior
Several times I’ve tried to write books about people I don’t like. It doesn’t work and I can’t keep at it. I don’t want sad/sick/arrogant folks camping in my head. (That’s my own personality’s job.) Really, that’s why the characters are the most important element for me. I’m spending months with them! Like a road trip.
In DEAD GIRL MOON I admired Grace’s survivor courage. She was not defeated by her horrible experiences. I did not admire her ethics but I understood their genesis. That said, your genesis remains a mystery to me. I’m thinking DNA from an alternate universe. Somehow your string theory got all balled up.