When characters go rogue

Posted: August 13, 2009 in Uncategorized

I have to be careful with this post, so as not to give too much detail away on my novel, but I’ve had two experiences in the last couple of weeks that are driving me nuts; namely characters not acting how they should.

Example 1. Prior to saying, the hell with it, and starting BWK from scratch, I had hopes of salvaging what I had restored from my fatal stupidity. I had a character, a cook in a saloon, who had a minor but fairly significant role to play. Realizing that including his part to the extent I had it, would be an extra 25K words, and slow things down, I decided to cut him down, and remove his pivotal role.

Apparently he didn’t like that. No matter how I tried, it kept coming back to him wanting to take the limelight again. To regain his rightful place in my novel, like the spear carrier in a Shakespeare play who tries to upstage the lead actor.  For about a week and a half I struggled with him. I tried making deals with him, offering him bright, shiny baubles if only he would behave. I even alluded to him getting laid, if only he’d fly right.

He’d have no part of it, however. This stubborn refusal was my impetus to start over. Use what I had as an outline, rather than than a reconstruction. I had to totally rewrite the chapter, and introduce my protagonist in a completely new way to get him to shut up. As a result, not only is his part reduced in a major way, he’ll not be getting shiny baubles, or laid.

You don’t piss off your creator when he’s like an old testament  God.

So with his role safely decided, and little wiggle room for him to escape from my clutches, I proceeded to chapter three, only to have one of my main characters display behavior I wasn’t expecting. Joshua, the younger of the brothers, was in my mind, a little, uh, simple. Following his brother, and doing his bidding, because he knew no better. Apparently he does, the prick.

There’s is nothing more frustrating for me as a writer, to think I know all there is to know about a character, only to have them surprise me. I don’t like surprises. Not when it comes to my writing anyway. Yet Joshua felt the need to let me know  there was more substance-more depth-to him than I initially thought.  By the time I finished writing the scene, I had a new respect for him, not to mention a catalog of changes to my story.

You may say to yourself, “Well Scott, if you used an outline, and wrote detailed backgrounds, you wouldn’t have these problems.”, to which I say, “Bullcrap.”  I’ve used outlines in the past, and written character backgrounds, and still they surprise me.  Not to mention that I’ve had Joshua in my head for the better part of this year and he gave no indication he was holding out vital info on me.

all of this leads me to why I love writing. Much like life, no matter how much planning you do, no matter how well laid out plans are, there’s always going to be some schmuck to screw things up and make things difficult.

And also much like life, it’s how you deal with these roadblocks that tests your mettle, and makes you a better person/writer.

  1. T.M. Wright says:

    You’ve got an intriguing novel in the works, Scott. Having trouble with characters is part of the mix when you’ve embarked on the journey you’re taking. I do very much ike the chapter I’ve read…more, more!


  2. raingods says:

    Thanks Terry, that’s much appreciated. I always find it fascinating how when I think I know how something is going to go, with one sentence, even one word, things take a left turn somewhere.

    I’m glad you like the first chapter. I’ve got about 15% of the novel done. And I’ll be happy to send you some more to read down the line!


  3. T.M. Wright says:

    I’d love to read the book as you work on it. Thank you!


    P.S. Have you received BC yet?

  4. raingods says:

    Not yet Terry, but it takes 3 days for me to get mail from Oregon-I expect I’ll get it today or tomorrow.