…In a limited sense.
This idea comes from an old web comic, now defunct, called 1/0. The comic is funny and I recommend the archives.
The comic has no fourth wall. By this I mean the creator and characters freely dialogue. At one point one of the characters points out to the creator, Tailsteak, that they have no free will. Tailsteak’s response was interesting.
Tailsteak claimed that they did have a limited form of free will because he gave each character distinct traits and distinct personalities. If he, Tailsteak, decided to make a character do or say something, it had to be within the limits he created. One character was a foulmouthed talking eye named Junior (look, I did say it was a humor strip). If Tailsteak made Junior a sweet-tempered female dog with a sunny disposition, he would simply be writing an entirely different character.
So Junior has free will in the sense that Tailsteak does not have unlimited options when it comes to controlling Junior. In order for Junior’s character to remain intact, he must act in a certain way. In this sense he has some control over his own actions, despite not even actually existing. Junior, in an important way, can override the will of the creator if the actions the creator wants him to make don’t fit the things he has already established Junior as being willing to do. You’ll hear authors talk this way about characters all the time – about how a character acting in a certain way will force the author to change the plot of the story to accommodate. Listen to the language – it is the character forcing the author’s hand, not the other way around.
Food for thought. Discuss.