Sneaky Characters

Published July 12, 2011 by caitlinnicoll

"This is positively the worst night in existence."

Have you ever had a character sneak up on you? A character who when your writing along all absorbed in your own sheer genius worms his/her way into the narrative, and the next thing you know they’ve not only stolen the scene, they are running the show?

Yea, that unhappy fellow over there on the left did exactly that. He, by the way is Yo, the God of the Sun in my fantasy novel that I am currently revising/rewriting/hacking to death like I am Norman Bates and it is Janet Leigh. He’s usually a pretty cheerful person, you just happened to catch him at a bad time.

When I started writing The Lunatic Fire  trilogy (or TLF as it will henceforth be called), Yo wasn’t even one of the original characters. He didn’t even come into conception until I was well into the plotting process and roughly a fifth of the way through what used to be a 150,000 word novel (it has shrunk considerably in its third draft). But then he started stealing the scene any chance he could.  I don’t think there was a chapter where he wasn’t at least mentioned four or five times. What can I say?– he’s a vaingloriously flamboyant character that thrives on attention. Now, not only is he is one of the three viewpoint characters, he is the most fleshed out of the three.

In his defense, he does make sense as a MC, as he is the son of the antagonist, the God of Fire (hence the title) and there is a lot of bad blood/ contention between them throughout the story. Yo actually ends up becoming the primary catalyst in the war in which the entire trilogy centers around. I am still reluctant to call him the main hero though.

Do you have any characters who have infiltrated your story? How do you handle it? Do you go along with the flow or do you sit them in a corner and tell them to shut up?


11 comments on “Sneaky Characters

  • I love Yo, though! He’s so cute. ❤

    Sergei would be my current worm. But he's an adorable worm in a wheelchair who has a semi-evil-being-manipulated-brother.

    The story was supposed to be about Hector. Hector and Petyr.

    Now, it's about all this other stuff. WHAT.

    • He’s my favorite too, if you couldn’t tell.

      Just think of Sergei as a subplot. A very big, adorable sub plot.

      There’s just something about lovable secondary characters. If in fact some of my favorite characters in literature/TV have been secondary characters. Peregrine in LOTR, Captain Jack in Doctor Who, Aido in Vampire Knight. All scene stealers.

  • This happened with Ahab in Moby Dick.

    “he does make sense as a MC… lovable secondary characters…”

    I think the key is to make sure the character is the first and not merely the second. Scene stealers are often more fun to write, but less dramatically compelling in the long run.

    • Oh, definitely. That is why he became one of the MCs. All the drama seemed to gravitate towards him. To the point where his plots/subplots overshadowed that of the actual MC.

      I have a new secondary scene stealer now. But he is staying firmly in second place.

  • Yes, that’s exactly how I feel about a lot about my characters. Some just have minor roles, but sometimes they start “whining'”for more stories. I try balancing it out so that I don’t have a infamous Mary Sue on my hands or a Brother Chuck (that’s a character who disappears without explaining what happen to them, because the writer has lost interest and forgot about them) because the certain characters are taking all the spotlight.

  • That happened to me while I was outlining my MG novel (I’m still outlining it though). I had one side character that was simply helping the protagonist, but then he decided one day to become a villain and then a whole new idea sprung out of that. Now, the entire direction of the plot has changed.

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