Characters Taking Over The Story

Posted: July 22, 2013 in Novel, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I belong to a group of suspense and thriller writers on Facebook, and occasionally the subject has come up in discussion on characters taking over the plot of the story and acting in defiance to the author’s expectations for the story. Until recently, I had no idea what that meant, though I may or may not have said that I did. With my stories, especially my novels, I wrote an outline, then I wrote the story. The characters mostly followed the outline, and any changes, such as certain areas of the climax of Reborn City, I felt were my own creative decision.

It wasn’t until this morning, waiting for the bus to work, standing in the pouring rain, that I had a little epiphany of the subject. I remembered when I first started writing the outline for Reborn City, back in high school when publishing a book was still just a very far-away dream. Originally I’d planned for bad-boy Rip to be the star of the show, and Zahara Bakur to be the deuterogamist (secondary protagonist for those of you who don’t know that term). But as I started outlining the novel, I saw that Zahara was taking up more of my attention and more of the story than Rip was. Consequently as time went by, Zahara went from deuterogamist to co-protagonist, and by the end of the outline, she’d gone to leading lady, with Rip being the deuterogamist.

Reborn City

And you know what? I thought the novel benefited from that. Sure, the Hydra leaders have a plethora of problems, and having Zahara around doesn’t exactly make them easier. But I think they benefit in some ways from Zahara, and she’s the one who goes through the biggest transformation of all. Heck, I’m only two chapters into the second book of the series (three if I can stay on track for tonight), and I’ve already noticed that she has a confidence that wasn’t present in the first book.

Sure enough, my characters are having more of a say in how the story turns out than I am. If anything, Zahara’s dictating her story to me, rather than I’m coming up with it. It’s a weird feeling, but it’s also kind of fun and exciting, and I get to experience my characters’ growths, decisions, and tribulations with them. And isn’t following a character through all that just the reason we pick up books in the first place and read them?

I’m looking forward to see what happens from here on out. I’m also hoping to see if I’ll write any more stories where the characters do more of the dictating than I do. If I do, it’ll probably be sometime soon, especially since I’m working on two novels at once!


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