Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Characters Who Get Carried Away

By Anna Jones Buttimore

Stephenie Meyer reported that when she started writing the Twilight series, Jacob was a minor character and wasn't intended to be much more than the means to introduce Bella to the local vampire legends. But as she wrote the series she found that he was taking more and more of a major role, until the famous love triangle was fully formed.

Friends in writers groups have reported similar things. Clay Gilbert, whose book Annah comes out this Autumn, said, "There was a point during the writing of the book when I intended to have [Annah] go to the tribal council of her people and talk to them about a certain conflict that was brewing. I was in the middle of trying to write the scene when Annah's voice popped into my head, and she said, 'I do not know what YOU think I am going to do, but I am not going to the Council of Elders about this. I am going to the hearth of my parents to discuss it with THEM.'" Lori Taylor said, "the father of one of my MC's ... was supposed to be a minor character in the first draft of my story, and now he's an MC that refuses to stay dead."

How many times have your characters refused to do what you wanted them to do? Or taken a bigger role than they were supposed to? Or even demanded a sub-plot, or a love-interest, or an extra challenge in their journey? Frustrating, isn't it?

Well, it shouldn't be. It means that your characters are fully developed and consistent. It means that you have such a good grip on their personalities that you subconsciously know when you are trying to make them do something which goes against the grain. It means that they are so real to you that they can help you with the creative process.

In short, if your characters are getting carried away, it means you have an amazing imagination and that's an essential quality in a writer. After all, if it weren't for Jacob Black building up his own part we'd have no "Team Jacob" vs. "Team Edward" and then where would we be?

(I'm Team Edward, by the way.) (Oh, and thanks to Clay and Lori for letting me use their quotes.)


  1. This is so true! The book I wrote almost six years ago led me to write a whole prequel about the MC's father when he was a teenager. His backstory was so compelling to me that I had to know it all!

  2. I've had the same thing happen. I was shocked to find out a major connection between two characters halfway through my book that changed EVERYTHING in a good way. I love when my characters surprise me!

  3. I had the same experience. A minor character turned into a major one. They really do have minds of their own. Frightening, really. :-)



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