• Alicia J Novo

My character has gone rogue

What happens when your story takes a turn you don't like?


Characters are living and breathing. If you don't agree, this post isn't for you.


You wouldn't relate to the distress of realizing a character--and as a result, your story--has taken a turn in a completely unintended direction and no matter your effort you can't seem to steer it back to your original design. Further attempts only result in a muddled mess, and you have bare spots on your scalp from pulling your hair out.


Breathe. This one requires a bitter medicine, but it is curable.


Ready? Here are your tips.


TIPS AND ADVICE

I apologize for turning murderous but desperate times--you get it.


There are three choices at your disposal:

  • Kill your plan

Borrowing from Stephen King's famous killing of darlings, this idea explores the shocking--and possibly painful concept that maybe, just maybe, the story you originally dreamt up will never see the light. There is another story trying to emerge, and your characters are trying to show you the way.


Kill your hopes for your original idea. Take a couple of days to mourn it, and then listen well to your characters and assess the new direction. You might be onto something new and amazing.

  • Kill your character

Extreme? Perhaps. But unless the misbehaving character is your MC, this can be a solution. And you don't have to really kill them. You can write them out, and if you're attached, keep them safe in your For Later box (a separate Scrivener project is perfect for this). Once the offending character is out of the way, your story might fall back into course. If it doesn't, however, it might be time to consider killing your plan (see above).


  • Kill your Scenes

This one is tricky and not as successful, but if you are not ready to move forward with either of the options above, consider it. As always, version your work in case you need to revert. First, identify the problem scenes. Now delete them (ok, ok, dump them in an Old Version Folder in Scrivener or an Excerpts document if you use Word). But take them out of your project flow. Be heartless.


The trick is to replace the scenes that are causing you trouble with short one paragraph, bare-bones descriptions. Keep going until you are 3 scenes further than the last one that gave you grief. And then start writing again. Often this can get you through the hurdle and force the rogue character into compliance. By changing the dynamic and moving further into your text, you will be working to solve new problems and focus on plot action. Note this isn't foolproof. Your character might still throw a tantrum. If that happens, accept it is time. Take a deep breath and kill your plan.


BEYOND THE BULLETS


Character mutiny: The Why

Character mutiny is a real thing, and it is often good--if you're ready to relinquish control.

Is character mutiny even real?


It is. Characters say things they shouldn't, upend the personality traits you've planned for them, and even like their enemies. It happens.


The likely reason is that your unconscious is playing tricks, and your writing intuition is screaming for your attention. We might be writers, but even in our worlds, we don't control everything. Our minds keep working, making connections, and decisions when we're not aware (that stroke of unplanned brilliance when what you wrote in chapter 2 rounded out a clever plot point by chapter 20? This is the flip-side of that).


Often rather than keep beating at a wall with nothing to show but a bruised forehead, consider you might have grown, things might have changed, and if you allow your intuition to guide you, your story might be better for it.

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© 2018 by Alicia J. Novo. United States.