Do your characters lead you down blind alleys?

Unruly Characters


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


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.


I just should have known better.


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?


  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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