When Characters Take the Reins

The Argument

The Argument

I’m a plotter. I have been since day one as an author. All the books I’ve written have been plotted, sometimes for years, so when I sat down to write it was all right there and flowed like wine downhill.

All except for one book.

One book in particular has been the bane of my existence ever since I began to write it over three years ago. The book is my Regency, To Woo a Wicked Widow, and it has led me a merry chase just to get it written down. Because every time I stared to write it, the characters would go absolutely crazy. Insisting they do this, not wanting to do that. Three of the main characters simply dug their heels in and said, “No. I don’t want to do that. And you can’t make me.”

And unfortunately, they were right.

Every time I tried to steer the plot or the character’s actions in a certain way, it came out stilted, or weird sounding, or didn’t make sense for them to be doing it. The hero insisted on a love scene in the library when it was not supposed to be there according to the outline. The heroine became too headstrong and made one beta reader dislike her intensely. And the bad guy kept finding ways to be likeable despite my instructions to the contrary.

As I said earlier, I am a plotter. But in this book, I came as close as I ever hope to be to being a pantser. It was extremely frightening to me to have the reins of the book jerked out of my hands and someone else calling the shots. Perhaps that is why I am still not satisfied with the end product of it. I’ve flipped the whole premise of the book around, I’ve managed to make the hero more heroic and the villain as dastardly as I possibly can. And I think readers will now sympathize with the heroine’s plight.

It still, however, doesn’t seem to be quite complete or jelled into the story I envisioned from the beginning. I suppose fighting with my characters, like fighting with a cast in a theatrical production, is bad for morale. I think the little voice in my head will prevail, but it is very difficult to make characters do your bidding if they don’t want to.

The only thing I’ve found that works is compromise. Take some of the good things they insist on doing and blend them with things that will accomplish the goals of the work as you see them. This is where I’m heading with my latest revision and (cross your fingers) it seems to be working!

Wish me luck!

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6 Responses to When Characters Take the Reins

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    Good Luck! I write by the seat of my pants… my characters rule the story. I’m stuck right now because they don’t want to do anything! So I’ve been laying in bed talking about the story and they love that part…just when I sit in front of the computer…hide! It will get done… we’ve got to finish the story and that will be how it is. *said in my best mommy voice*

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      I do my best talking or thinking about characters, story, plot, when I’m driving. That may sound weird or dangerous, but I’ve been making the same 40 minute commute for about 14 years, so I know the roads rather well and once I get on the interstate, I get in the zone and then talk to the characters. Of course this one book’s characters wouldn’t listen to me much, so I’ve had to work it out in revisions. Multiple revisions. LOL

  2. Oh, dear. I have that happen to me all the time. Then again, I’m a pantser, and have to, sometimes, cox my characters into talking to me. My best advice is to just write the book and change it during edits. Shared.

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Thanks for the share, Ella. Most of the time my characters listen to me, understand I’m doing this for their own good, and let me call the shots. Not this Regency. You must have all the good Regency characters. LOL Mine are the bad boys and girls.

  3. Pingback: When Characters Take the Reins | Jenna Jaxon Romance–because passion is timeless.

  4. I’m an outliner, too. I also do very detailed character profiles before starting. I generally feel like I know my characters so well before I write, that I can predict their behavior to a T. Thus far, I’ve been right. Like you, I would be appalled if my characters were going one way when I outlined them another. Good luck with Widow. I have absolutely no doubt that you’ll hit your mark.

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