Demanding Characters

When an author starts a novel he/she has a general idea of who the characters are. But sometimes a character pops up out of nowhere and demands a part in the plot. No matter how much the author says no and tries to ignore that character, the character will not take no for an answer.

A girlfriend told me one such character forced his way into her story by putting a gun to her head and forcing her to sit down at the computer and write him in into existence.

Of course that didn’t really happen, it’s just felt that way. He wasn’t there when she conceived the idea for her novel. She didn’t want to add him in, but the idea of his character would not go away. She had no chose but to give in.

When I started writing a fantasy Jewel of Desire, I’d plotted the story, and had a good idea of where it was headed, There was no character named Karth. Then one day he appeared from out of nowhere.

I’d just finished chapter 24. No Karth in sight. As I sat down to write the very next chapter, there he was, lurking in the shadows, literally. I thought that was it, just that one chapter. He didn’t seem to have a roll in the story. I’d read books where the author gave one chapter to a minor character whose only roll was to tell the readers what he saw. I heard no more from Karth until the end of chapter 27.

An old witch Sidrea had walked for nine days to reach the castle and could walk no more, she lay down in the prairies to die. And just like that, there was Karth. He rode up on his steed and save her.

I still didn’t have a full concept of who he was or why he was in my novel. I didn’t even know his backstory.

I knew he was a thief and a murder for hire, but that was all. It wasn’t until he and Sidrea were alone, talking, that I learned who he was, why he was in the story, and his destiny. But I still didn’t fully know how all of what was going to happen.

Karth’s life unfolded as the story progressed.

In above conversation, Sidrea trusted him and told him all her plans. Plans he would thwart. As I continued to write, I learned she didn’t full trust him. Sidrea was playing Karth. I had to go back and rewrite their first conversation.

Evidently, he didn’t trust her either, because he’d learned of her plans several chapters later while he spying on her. And his roll in the plot finally unfolded.

He’d hung around for  months, while I was writing, and slowly revealed himself until I knew exactly who he was. To my surprise, Karth is very important. Certain things were not going to happen if not for him. Yet, when I first started Jewel of Desire, I didn’t see it. Now it’s so obvious.

Characters are like that. You might not think you need him or her, but somehow they know they are important. They know the plot is incomplete without them.  And they are not afraid to let you know it.

What demands have your characters made on you? Leave a comment.