When I first heard this question at a creative writing workshop, I was tempted to say that I intended to firmly hold onto the reins. A neophyte with no literary credits to my name, I couldn’t imagine characters actually misbehaving on the page. Thankfully, I paused and waited for more seasoned writers to respond.
What followed was an animated discussion about a ghostly character who suddenly appeared and replaced the original protagonist, new characters who emerged out of a conversation, and a male character who decided to change gender. In each case, the writers allowed the disruptors to alter the course of the narrative.
A bit woo-woo for my taste, but I concluded that writers—for the most part—were a motley bunch.
Fast forward four years.
Partway through the manuscript of Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged ex-mermaid, I hit a major writing block. Days turned into weeks as I stared at the blank screen, unable to move the plot forward. In short, I was lost with no clear trail or direction in sight. At one point, I even considered filing away the manuscript.
Help arrived from a most unexpected source. One evening, I dreamt about Kendra Adams, a minor character I had mentioned only in passing. In my dream, she appeared as a world-renowned psychic and holistic healer on par with Sylvia Brown and Louise Hay. When I woke up, I felt inspired to let Kendra take over the remaining one hundred pages of the novel. As I wrote, the dialogue flowed freely, and the story arc took an intriguing turn.
In the sequel—The Coming of Arabella—Kendra shares the spotlight with the protagonist.
Fast forward another five years.
In my recent release, No More Secrets, I introduced Lynn Miller, aka Bellastrega as a psychic companion for the protagonist. My original intention was to have her appear only in the first chapter. For some reason, that didn’t sit well with Bellastrega. She invaded my dreams several times and persuaded me to assign her a separate POV. She wanted to interact with all the characters and provide the reader with well-honed insights into their personalities. When I decided to include an epilogue, I let her take over.
My advice to writers dealing with rogue characters:
- Release expectations about how the storyline should flow. Let the new (or transformed) characters take over for a while. If the dialogue feels more authentic and the scenes practically write themselves, go with that flow.
- Reassess your decision at the editing stage. Does the altered storyline make more sense? Or are you more comfortable with the original outline?
- Get feedback from beta readers. While you may not wish to share the shenanigans of the rogue characters, you could ask readers to highlight strong dialogue and memorable scenes. Their responses may surprise you.
Where to find Joanne…