Good characterization creates sentient beings who start to have minds of their own. It’s good for the author to listen, for they may have ideas that actually make the story better, as long as these ideas work with the whole.
Early on in my novel, I had a protagonist decide he’s a musician (so music became the passion that supported the theme). Later, two very minor characters designed the colours and atmosphere of their own house, which affected their son, a major supporting character to the protagonist, and still later, this same supporting character defined his attitude toward the protagonist through a character arc that led to a better, more complete ending I never could have drafted in the beginning.
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~Saul Bellow
A writing colleague had two very minor characters waltz in and demand bigger roles. Their unique (and in one case, eccentric) personalities, magnetism, backstory, and purpose greatly enhanced the story and strengthened relationships with the major characters. The author was quite worried about this surprising–and forceful–push for the change. But the characters played nice with the story arc and themes (though she gave them a map), and they fit in perfectly. The results were spectacular.
“Story structure is about plight, not plot.” ~Michael Dellert
I have written on this topic before
- Characters Don’t Listen to Us (“Hey, that’s not what I had in mind for you!”)
- Pantsing and Planning Can Be a Sliding Scale (An analysis with story examples.)
Related post from the blog series Snippets of An Author’s Life
- Annoying Things My Book Does To Me (With the short video “Tired Tom,” to which many a writer can relate!)
Today’s anecdotal post was inspired by K.M. Weiland’s recent post, Are You Being Too Much of a Control Freak About Your Characters?, which offers practical advice about this all too familiar phenomenon.