Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When characters won’t behave

by Rick Blechta

My current novel-in-progress has a character who just will not do what she’s supposed to!

To be completely fair, I set her up to be a bit of a handful. She’s super smart, curious, seemingly fearless and her function in the plot at the beginning was primarily to get another character moving since he has great inertia and problems of his own. Think Archie Goodwin to Nero Wolfe here.

All well and good. Once she fulfilled her primary function at the beginning, she was supposed to then become a slight second to the main character – but thus far, she’s not going gentle into that good night. She can take as good as she gets, and consequently, I’m having great trouble reining her in.

To compound the issue, the main character would probably not be willing to put up with her behaviour. Thus far, I’ve pulled his punches, but regardless of how able and talented she is, eventually he’ll get fed up and since he’s the boss, she’ll get shown the door – something that will throw the whole ms into a cocked hat. There will be some locking of horns as the story progresses, but they must be able to work together closely.

For the past several days, I’ve gone back to spots where I might have gone wrong with her. I feel what she needs are brakes for some of her more outspoken character traits and I seem unable to come up with anything.

So today, I went back and cut out every scene she’s in thus far – and there are a number since she’s the catalyst making plot things happen early on in the story. My idea is that by starting over, somehow I’ll frame her character differently based on what I now know about her. I want her strong personality to remain, but she needs to “play better with others”. By simply chucking everything and starting over with her, rather than spend a bunch of time trying to fix her scenes, things just might work out quicker and easier.

Anyone else ever have this kind of problem?


Aline Templeton said...

Oh yes, there are always characters who won't do what you want them to. I had one quite minor female character who not only insisted on hogging the limelight but changed sex as well. The trouble is, characters nowadays have no respect for their authors.

Rick Blechta said...


Donis Casey said...

Sometimes those unruly characters turn out to be the most interesting people in the book. My guess is she won't go away quietly.

Patricia Filteau said...

In my first book, my writing stopped for six days because a character kept trying to invade the story. I didn't want him there; I didn't like him ... I tried to ignore him. My writing resumed when I acquiesced, thinking I could be his scribe then nix him. Well not only did the bugger remain but he carted along his entire family to a new totally incongruous setting – for him at least. So far, I have kept him at bay in book 3 but I keep a wary look out.

Charlotte Hinger said...

My favorite is the "gift" character who shows up for the book and knows what it's all about whether I do or not.