Monday, September 12, 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.

The word you're searching for is 'crap-doodle'.

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. Elspeth - Such good advice! That happened to me with the manuscript I just finished. One of my minor characters decided he wanted a major part in the novel. The noive! But I gave it to him and the book is much better, I think, for it.

  2. Terry; I can certainly understand that happening!

    Carol; Alrighty then.

    Margot; I'm not surprised you listened to your instincts. I'm sure your new manuscript is fantastic.

  3. Interesting that you did this post as I was dealing with this problem. Like, Margot, I have a character in my current WIP that is wanting more and more of the limelight. I am going with that for now and think he might be right for being so demanding.

  4. Colin and Macca were supposed to be in one scene. Now I find myself wanting to write a whole damn story about them and Macca's cousin Benny. I'm sitting on it :-)

  5. Maryann; I highly recommend letting him have his say. I'll almost guarantee he'll say something worth hearing.

    Sarah; This is what early drafts are for!


Please leave a comment as I love to hear from you!