Saturday, May 7, 2011

Secondary Characters?

I think I am in a crazy mood tonight so you will just have to forgive me.

I have been puzzling about characters. Where do they come from?
How do we as authors (or daydreamers, or whatever) create them?

As I write my characters grow. In some ways that should be obvious, a novel would be fairly tedious if characters did not change with the progression of the plot.

But for me it almost feels like my characters shape the plots as I write.

I talked a while ago about Valentina, one of my characters in my WIP, forcing her way from a secondary character into prominence.

I have to say this is not the first time I have had this experience. In my first novel Veiled in Shadows two of my minor characters met and fell in love. It was a necessary plot device because those two characters being together meant two of my main characters could meet, but then sparks flew.

So how is it that the secondary characters shifted into prominence? Well in my first draft both characters Penny and Danny were present. Both had roles that were important to the plot but they never even met.
Yet by the time my final draft had been completed they had not only met. In fact it went much further, they had fallen in love and been married.

On the surface it made sense, the plot needed my main characters to be drawn together through a chance meeting. Logically it made more sense to me to have some of the characters already in the story bring them together, rather than creating new characters to use in one or two scenes.

So Danny Parnell and Penny Chesterfield were introduced. On the surface they did not seem at all matched. She was beautiful, elegant, educated and sophisticated. He awkward, not particularly good at anything and shy. Yet they fell madly in love with each other. (I will forgive myself that contrast. I have known many, many loving couples who seemed to have nothing in common).

As an author I have to take the blame. These characters sprang from my mind (at least I think they did). Yet it really seems like they were in charge. I’ll add a couple of points to show why -
I mean Penny and Danny? Would any self respecting author have a couple with such names. Daniel fine, Penelope fine but together?

And Penny Chesterfield becoming Penny Parnell, it is so alliterative as to be almost painful. Yet neither character would let me change their name once they were on the page.

I swear it was their choice not mine!

Have you ever created characters that took charge of your WIP?

Sunset and trees damaged in the 2009 Bushfires taken this evening with my new camera


Linda G. said...

Happens to me every single time. In fact, I should probably give my characters co-writer status, at the least. Seems like all I do is follow them around and transcribe their actions. ;)

Anne Gallagher said...

Ha ha ha. I had to laugh. I remember last summer, my characters were so peeved with me, they disappeared. I wanted one thing to happen, and they wanted another. No compromise either. They won.

I guess it's okay. I finally finished the book.

Characters, I think for the most part, become real. I think it behooves us to listen to them. That way, we really don't sound so psychotic when they speak.

Lindz Pagel said...

Fabulous post.
This has totally happened to me.
In the original version of my story my present antagonist was going to be a good guy and my present protagonist was the bad guy. How did this happen? My characters asserted themselves and told me something about themselves I was ignoring. And, my story is so much better for it.

February Grace said...

Only happens to me every time I write, hence the tag line on my blog, "The characters are in control, I just take dictation."

Having 'small' characters insist that they were more has shaped every major story I've ever written, and made them what they are. I wouldn't have it any other way- frankly, I don't know how other people write without the characters telling them the story. It might make me sound crazy, maybe I am (I swear I don't hear voices though I have 'argued' with my characters on many occasions..."No, no, you can't be in love with her. Stop it. Stop it right now, man, you're going to muck up everything!" but they never listen, and I'm so glad.

Great post!


The Words Crafter said...

In my nano novel, one of the mc's reacted differently to some news and completely threw me off my course. It helped the book tremendously, but I won't tell him that.

With my first wip, I'm having trouble developing some of my secondary characters. The main players are so....real(?). I need to give them more attention.....

Isn't it funny how real they can be? It's one of the things that makes writing fun.

Old Kitty said...

It's nice when characters you give birth to grow up all independent!! I love it when they do that!! :-) For me this means that they are growing into four dimensional characters with depth - so they must be ok with the overall story! Well I hope so anyway! Take care

L'Aussie said...

Hello Al. Well the A-Z is over so getting back to 'normal.'

I think if you invent good characters they do tend to take over. I find that exciting.

Check out Francine and my new romantic venture. It's another way you could put your characters out there for feedback.

Romantic Friday Writers - first challenge - Dire Moments

Al said...

Hi Linda,
Perhaps you should include them in your acknowledgements :-)
I know exactly what you mean, half the time it seems like transcribing something I am told, rather than being the author of anything!

Hi Anne,
We are helpless without their cooperation aren’t we?
They always win!

Hi Lindz,
I’m pleased I’m not the only one :-)
You’re right if you let them speak they become much more real, more believable. Hopefully they strike my readers that way!

Hi Bru,
Thank you!
Taking dictation seems to be a common theme.
Arguing with your characters. I have done exactly the same thing!
Occasionally I have managed to persuade them my ideas were the way to go. Some of them sulked, but others were very gracious!

Hi Words,
Careful! If you let your secondary characters get away they could take over!

It is wonderful how real they come to be. My characters have me laugh, cry and cringe. All seemingly almost beyond my control.

It is heaps of fun.

Hi Jennifer,
It is amazing, although when they are being independent minded it isn’t always nice ;-)

Hi Denise,
The A-Z was a marathon and a half.
In my case normal isn’t always normal ;-)

Deniz Bevan said...

Love the photos in your previous post!
I try not to think too much about where characters come from - they might disappear! - but boy do they take over. I had a love interest all lined up for my heroine but she kept pushing him away and arguing with him, and then when the real hero came along, I realised, oh! that's what she was keeping herself for [g]

LTM said...

I am SO with you on this question, my friend. It happens to me ALL the time! And I do wonder where they come from??? Who's in charge here?

It's fun, though. It's what makes it fun... I think somebody said to me I was "emotionally intuitive." So maybe it's us writing certain emotions for our characters and knowing where they lead in the "real" world... maybe that leads these guys when sometimes it feels like they're leading us--???

I don't know. :D <3

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You're so right; those darned characters do have a way of rebelling. What ingrates. My MC started out being a lot like me, but she insisted on becoming much more assertive and ditzy than I am, and some of the other characters keep trying to sneak language past me that I'd never say out loud.

Your photographs are beautiful, and thank you, dear sir, for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I do appreciate it, and just for that, I'm gonna sign on as another of your minion followers.