Do your characters lead you down blind alleys?

Unruly Characters

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Authors, do your characters sometimes refuse to fall in line and tread the path you have so carefully plotted for them?

Mine do. Sigh.

I’m not a detailed plotter, nor these days a total pantser  – and I’m making the assumption here that you understand these terms, and don’t think I’m making risqué underwear references.

When I wrote my first novel, or, in fact, my first three novels, I lived for the seat of the pants thrill of having no idea where my characters would take me. I created a world, an opening scene, some characters, and let them loose. What a buzz!

 

Writing Sequels

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Only trouble now is, needing to write sequels that are the middle part of a trilogy, or an on-going piece of a longer series, I’m finding it necessary to have some sort of plot in mind before I start.

Blah. Takes loads of the fun out of the discovery process.

But, oh well, I have to knuckle down and do it, or potentially waste tons of time sorting out issues later that don’t fit in the overall story arc.

Okay, I thought. I will do the minimum. Start with the characters from the previous book – no problem. Give them a set goal to reach in this novel, and a vague route plan to get from Point A to Point B.

Easy. And not too restrictive. Still plenty of scope for the old imagination to dream up fantastical elements, if not the whole plot.

Wrong!

I just should have known better.

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These characters had free rein last time – and they’re not willing to give it up yet! Will they behave themselves and go along the prescribed route?

Like hell, will they!

In the big plan, I guess they’re not doing so badly, but they keep deviating off down uncharted and unsanctioned side routes and, dammit, some of those are rather interesting!

I don’t want to slap these people back into line, as I hate to see characters in a book being forced to do things out of character for the sake of the plot. I just wish these side turnings weren’t so damned tempting!

THE PRINCE’S SON, sequel to THE PRINCE’S MAN, has now grown into 2 books; a novel and a novella (THE PRINCE’S NEPHEW), else it would be rivalling a G.R.R.Martin tome in length, and I don’t want to take two years or more on one book.

If only I could write faster – or those characters in my head would stay on track and not keep doing such damned interesting things off their own bats!

I know I’m not alone in this predicament so, writers, how do you handle your disobedient characters?

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8 comments

  1. I’m a panster but I haven’t written a series, so I haven’t dealt with disobedience yet. It would be tough to have to rein them in. They’re worse than kids.

    1. As they say, it’s like trying to herd cats… 😉

  2. Good post! I’m a plotter–I map it all out, and then throw half of it out as I go, lol!

    1. I tried to plot this time, I really did, I just don’t seem to be able to keep things under control. Maybe one day…

  3. I’m a plotter as well but as Connie said, I usually run off the rails early in. That’s the problem with imaginary friends, they’re always getting us into trouble. The up side is, we get to blame it on them! 😉

    1. LOL, hadn’t thought of it like that!
      On the other hand, I really feel I should have some control over their actions, else I’d never get a novel finished 😉
      Perhaps that’s why I’m finding my mind running forward to future instalments about these same people.

  4. Deb I loved this post! I agree with everything, you want to create some law and order but you don’t want to kill your character’s spirits. I am also part pantser and part plotter but because I write in first person and memoir my process is much different as I outline the intent of my books and the subject matter I want them to contain, I then dig deep into my own past for my stories. 🙂

    1. If only fictional characters were so straightforward 😦
      I’m reading your first book at the moment, and was wondering how you decided to order your telling of events. That must be quite a challenge too, but at least you’re recollections aren’t fighting to change what happened!

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