Monday, April 11, 2011

Pay Attention to Me!

I love my characters; all of 'em. Some are easier to deal with than others, but bless their cotton socks, I love them all.


From time to time, each of us has to deal with that persnickety character who seems to stamp their foot and demand more time on the front burner instead of the back.

It's that maiden aunt who you were sure was only needed for two scenes, three at most, who now has put down her crocheting and is standing smack-dab in the middle (or next door) to the crime scene.

It's your female main character's quirky best friend who was supposed to be a shoulder for your main character to lean on, or take her to colourful bars and insist she swallow far too many drinks with little umbrellas in them. Now you've realized that actually this character is a far better match for your main character's Prince Charming than she is.


It's that odd uncle (or whoever) that you simply put into the plot for comedic relief who is now spouting all sorts of wisdom and seems to know what's going on better than your detective.

Yes, it's all part of the writing process, but it's also a really good reason to bang your head against the wall.

As the veteran of more than a few head bruises, let me say...don't do it. Instead, take three steps away from your manuscript (and the wall, while we're at it) and look at the entire plot. This attention-grabbing character might just be doing you a huge favour.

In the past, these characters have made me discover plot holes and character inconsistencies I might not have tripped over for weeks. They've made me re-think plots. They've even...made me change endings.

However, they might also be jumping up and down demanding attention because they're attention-mongers.

If you've got one of these whistle-blowing characters, take a moment and listen to them. You might have to pat them on the head and send them on their way, but you might also have to shake their hand because they just saved your story.


  1. A walk-on character became the hero in one of my stories. I love that guy!

  2. Elspeth - Oh, that exact thing has happened to me!! I have a character in my WIP who was supposed to just be a walk-on. Instead, wouldn't you know it, he's got a major role in the story. And it's better because of that. It is always good to pay attention to what even the minor characters want to tell you...

  3. Carol; Good for you! I don't know if I could be that brave.

    Margot; I've had the same thing happen to me. It's all about how well we adapt...

  4. We had so many supporting characters in WILS and they *all* wanted more screen time, so to speak. We tried to give each one his/her moment in the sun, and hopefully they (both characters and readers) walked away happy.

  5. Elisa; Good for you! Why am I not surprised?

  6. I have at least one of these in every book. Sometimes they actually take over and I have to rewrite from the new character's point of view. Or I have to tell them to go sit in the corner while I plan a whole new book for them.

  7. Sometimes these characters demand spin-offs. :)


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