Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Renegade Characters

Ever have a villain who refuses to be evil or a supporting character who wants to play a bigger role? You're not alone. Many authors experience renegade character problems. If you are having problems with a story, then it's most likely due to the fact that your characters are not who they are supposed to be. The novice writer might think that authors come up with characters, but that's not true at all. Characters become who they want to be whether you like it or not! A writer cannot always help what a character might become, and you'll often find it happening right under your nose--even though you never meant for your villain to suddenly be rescuing your hero from going over a cliff.

You need to let your characters breathe. All characters talk to their authors--usually late at night when all you want is sleep--and you should learn to listen to them. Take down what they say as they tell it to you--yes, even all the naughty things. You don't have to put it in the actual story, but even listening to your two guy characters crack rude jokes in the middle of the night and writing them down in a private place will help their characters develop for the time when you actually write the book. And if your supporting hero shows up for the sequel with an earring, well, if he's happy, you're happy, right?

Unfortunately, dear writers, there is no way to avoid this. You're just going to have to let your characters be who they want to be and deal with it. If you make them into something they aren't then they are going to rebel and the result will be a mediocre story that you will end up hating in a few years. Trust me. I have them, and so will every beginning writer out there. I've realized long ago, it is not the plot line or the writing style that makes a book, but the characters. I have picked up many a book that sounded amazing only to stop reading it because I couldn't stand the protagonist or the supporting cast. Yet, I have read books or watched movies as well, that may not have had a winner of a story line, but the characters are so memorable that you can't help but love it anyway. You can also usually spot a book that the author has not allowed the characters to be themselves in. Thankfully, in published books, this is few and far between, but I have read a couple *cough cough a certain paranormal novel cough* that I probably would have liked if the author had let the characters be who I thought they were struggling to be and let them do what they needed to. Ah, that is the reason I love classic literature. Few can craft characters like masters such as Dumas and Alcott!

So, in short, some of my best advice to any beginning writer, and also to people who have been writing for a long time (because it still happens!) is just to sit back, relax, and write with your eyes closed, without thinking of your characters in the way you portrayed them, but in the way they create themselves. You'll find your book will flow much better. And do listen to the voices in the night, yes, even the rude jokes, because it can only make all your stories better in the long run!

Slainte, Hazel


  1. So very true, Hazel. I've read those sorts of books too, and often times they are by first time authors. I think sometimes writers may be embarrassed by their character's behavior. Sometimes even thinking that readers will automatically think that the author has the same moral values or attributes, or uses the same language as the character. While we can't stop people thinking what they want, we are not out characters!! You are absolutely correct is saying that they "become" what they want to be, just like our children. We may raise 5 children the same way, but they all come out to be different people. So pay no mind to what some critics may think of you as an author. Take Hazel's advice and let your characters breathe.

  2. Definitely. Especially in the way of Villains! You really aren't like them (or are you?) but you have to write about them anyway!