When Characters take Control by Mae Clair

I’ve been thinking about my characters a lot lately and how more than a few have surprised me. For the most part these are secondary characters who demand a bigger role or—at the very least—venture beyond the part I intended for them.

In my first novel, WEATHERING ROCK, it was Rick Rothrock who turned out quite different than planned. If I ever get back to that series, I still owe him a prequel story. He earned it.

In TWELFTH SUN, my characters all behaved and played their roles. Maybe because there were so many, and they are such an eclectic bunch. If you’ve read the book (I won’t spoil it) you’ll understand the tongue-in-cheek reference in this paragraph. 😀

TWELFTH SUN has always been a pretty steady seller for me despite the fact it’s several years old, and only has twenty-three reviews. I can’t pinpoint a breakout character, but that’s probably because my lead, Dr. Elijah Cross, stole the show.
If I had to pick one book that was pure fun to write, it’s this one. If you’re looking for something breezy and adventurous to read this summer, give it a try. As a reader, you get to solve clues along with the characters.

An owl with glasses is reading a book in the woods ECLIPSE LAKE rolled around and I encountered my first incredibly demanding character—Jesse Carlisle. Originally slated as a secondary character Jesse evolved into one of the four leads of the novel. Yeah, four. Count ‘em. Interesting thing about Jesse…I wasn’t the only one he captivated with his personality. I’ve had multiple readers tell me he needs his own book. It’s on my list.

In MYTH AND MAGIC one of Caith’s brothers insisted on his own book. I actually started that story before succumbing to the call of the Mothman in A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS.

Which brings me to Mr. Evening who has conveniently taken on the role of my muse. He crops up in A COLD TOMORROW, book two of my Point Pleasant series. When I did a rough synopsis to send to my publisher, his role was pretty minimal. Well, give a muse control and…:)

Mr. Evening decided to expand his part, evolving his character into one far more complex than I’d envisioned. We squabbled a bit, but in the end I went back and rewove two plot threads to accommodate him.

But it didn’t end there.

He’s now worked things to ensure he’ll be back for book three and is beginning to whisper about becoming a continuing character outside of the series. He’s conveniently pointed out how nicely that would dovetail with some of the ideas I have percolating on the back burner. Grandiose plans, but he’s got me thinking maybe, just maybe…

Which of your characters has taken control?

38 thoughts on “When Characters take Control by Mae Clair

  1. Love this! And I really like Jesse; glad he made it to the top four. He’s a good kid! And oooh, one of Caith’s brothers is getting his own book? Those Muses sure can sneak up and take over. So far, haven’t had any characters mutiny on me, but then again I gave them some big (back)stories to start with. I have, however, had a character I originally planned to survive through the end of the book get taken out by the big bad monster. Actually, two characters. One of my beta readers is still sore about it 🙂 Mr. E sure is persistent. Of course, that’s probably a warning for me to keep an eye on my own Muse before he tries to do the same thing 😀

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    • Yeah, those muses have a way of getting their way, Julie 😀

      I can just imagine the shock of your poor character who ended up as big bad monster fodder. It sounds like it shocked you too, LOL.

      And yep, one of those Breckbill boys will hopefully get his own story one day….along with Jesse from Eclipse. Sounds like a lot of extra hours with the muse for me!

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    • Hi, Lynn! Main characters taking control are just as bad as the secondary ones who demand equal time, LOL. It sounds like Sam has a lot of story to tell…maybe even in a sequel or two? 😉

      Thanks for popping in to share your thoughts!

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  2. Hehehe…Mr. Evening seems to have more plans for you than you had for him. Brandi was set to be an ancillary to get me through the first book. I thought she might be a good one to bounce a sex-trafficking story off of…BUT, she stole the show and ended up becoming a co-protagonist. Beta readers demanded she reappear, so I had to rewrite the ending leaving that option open.

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  3. Wow! Mae, what an awesome idea…I too have a few characters in my Spirit Path series that were memorable and deserve a story of their own. (Tracy, Sam…James) Now, if I can just find the time…LOL

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    • Time is always the hurdle, isn’t it, Tammy? I would love to disappear to one of those writing cabins where I could spend an entire week doing nothing but churning these stories out. It sounds like you and I just have to keep adding them to our to-be-written lists!

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  4. I did enjoy this post, Mae. I know just what you mean about characters taking control. Despite my best intentions several have done so. And guess what? The way they steer events turns out better than my original idea. Good luck with your next project.

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    • Thanks for the well wishes, Daisy. And yes, those clever characters always seem to know what they’re about when they take control. The story does always turn out better….of course, then there they are gloating over the whole thing! 😀

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    • What a a great name for a character, Erin! And what an astute point…I think writers are introverted actors in the way we take on our characters’ personalities when we write them. I have my characters saying things I would never utter in real life, and yet you’re right–I wrote them, LOL!

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  5. I succumb to this all the time. My Muse doesn’t insist in being included though. Lisa is always asking for a new story, but letting her work for me keeps her mellowed out some. Right now, I have a talking yak that is getting more page time than I originally intended.

    The very name, Mr. Evening, has my mind off to the races. So many options for a character with that name. Very cool name.

    I’ve been pondering the value of extras using some characters. In an ebook environment they’re pretty easy to disseminate. I know one author who put out two prequels prior to his book release. Lisa’s short story was pretty popular too. I think I’ll keep doing this in my short stories.

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  6. Shawnee Daniels for sure. She’s got such a strong, loud voice her words bleed into everything I write lately. Doesn’t help that she’s always on my mind as I wait for Wings of Mayhem to release. But she’s a pain. I’m trying to write the sequel to Marred and she keep butting in.

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    • LOL! It’s hard shutting off one character to concentrate on another and it sounds like Shawnee is making it extra difficult for you, Sue. I can’t wait to meet her when Wings of Mayhem releases!

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  7. I am a little glad I have reached the last book in the John Cannon Trilogy. Several of the characters wanted to take over and assume some new roles. I just couldn’t let that happen so I promised one character a book of his own if he would just behave. The next one after the next one will be his. Good post Mae Claire.

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  8. They say that when your characters take on their own lives and you lose control of their actions, that’s when you’ve written a plausible character.
    I’ve had it happen in Shadows of the Past, where the characters began behaving in a way that I had not planned or foreseen but that was entirely in keeping with my plot. This is the first time where it took the plot somewhere I hadn’t expected to go.
    Great post, Mae, and I think that those characters pestering you to write another book for them are right. Humor them!

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    • I like that saying about having created a plausible character. Mr. Evening would certainly agree 🙂

      And I see you’ve experienced it too, Carmen. What fun writers get up to with their characters, and characters with their writers! And yes, I’m thinking of humoring Mr. E. and letting me run where he wants to go 🙂

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    • LOL! I like the way you think, Sherry….and Mr. Evening would agree. It seems he’s going to be around for a while. At least until this series is over and possibly longer! 🙂

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  9. I enjoyed this fun post, Mae! You write wonderful characters, and your readers are delighted when secondary ones come back to play. This scenario has happened to me a number of times as well. I think of Epona and Eshigel who appeared in my first book Wytchfae Runes but sought their own story and finally got it in Mind Your Goddess, Bane in Guardian of the Deep who reappeared in Demoness Dreams, etc. I love it when characters make themselves better known and think they are the boss of us. Keep writing your fab stories!

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    • Thanks for that, Flossie. And I, in turn, have equally enjoyed those stories you referred to when your secondary characters got their turn in the spotlight with their own novels. Isn’t it great how our characters sometimes know what’s best for them, beyond what we originally planned 🙂

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  10. Pingback: Garden time again, and a treat | Facets of a Muse

  11. People who don’t write, I think, have trouble understanding what we mean when we say the characters take over. Readers are under the mistaken impression that authors are in control of their characters. LOL

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