When a character just won’t behave themselves

16820When I wasn’t paying attention the Wishmaster sneaked up and tried to take over when I was writing ‘Jack Reusen and the Children of Fate’. At first I didn’t mind having the opportunity to delve deeper into who he is and why he did what he did, plus he offered me a new way of introducing readers to the main plot of the book.

Rather than having Jack, or someone close to him, find out about some emergency or danger instead I was able to see how another (perhaps less virtuous) character might react. I’ve spoken about this in a previous post so I won’t go into it too much, but it was yet another occasion where a character starts to steer the story, and in this case the Wishmaster’s story was quite far removed from the actual plot. I had to reign him in, but there are times when it’s less obvious what should be done about a character who is misbehaving.

Between ‘the Fey Flame’ and ‘Spark of Dreams’ I noticed that Fynn seemed to become overly changeable; in fact he became a very slippery character for me to write for a while. Part of my reason for this was that I decided to try and consider Fynn as a real human being with all of the ego and complexity that would be involved. First I imagined how I would feel if two children who I was supposed to protect instead found themselves directly in harm’s way, and at that very point they dealt with that danger competently without my help.

All at once you would feel as though you had both failed to protect them and you would be faced with the worry that your help was uncalled for after all. I really wanted to convey the fact that Fynn just wouldn’t be the same after the events of ‘the Fey Flame’ but in initial drafts this made him appear much more troubled (and fairly messed-up) than he needed to be. Also I had to be careful not to touch on themes that might be a little heavy for a children’s book. I like to hope that I got that balance right in the end.

Another character who became increasingly difficult to deal with was Thea; the girl who can turn into a polar-bear. However, in her case I let it slide; the more I wrote Thea, the more I wanted to write Thea. She’s a great character to write and so, after having my suspicions confirmed by readers, I decided to allow Thea to really turn into a break-out character, and resolved to give her her own set of stories.

Some characters can be frustratingly disobedient or even outright attention hogs, however, you may occasionally find a character who really does deserve some kind of special treatment. It’s hard to tell just when exactly these moments are and even then it’s easy to make mistakes about which characters really deserve more time. To be honest I only really know if I’ve done the right thing once readers tell me what they think to a character.

I’ve found that a good rule of thumb is that a character deserves more space in your work if they can help move the plot forward whilst providing something unique that they, and only they, can provide. Even then it can be hard to decide when to stand back and say ‘no, that was all very interesting, but we’ve got to get back to the story now!’ After all you don’t want to lose sight of the point of your story and lose the plot.

Have you ever had to deal with a runaway character? If you’re not a writer then have you ever come across a character who you felt deserved more time in a work? Did you ever come across a character who you feel deserved less time?

As always thanks for reading, please feel free to comment here, on facebook, or over on Twitter, all the best, John

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One thought on “When a character just won’t behave themselves

  1. Pingback: Losing the plot | Jack Reusen

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