Character Surprises

So there I was writing happily along. By gum, I had a series going. Two great protagonists striking up a romance, maybe getting married. That had distinct possibilities for all kinds of side-line conflict. Good chances for collaborating.

Wonderful villain–a dark magician, very skilled, full of wicked tricks–to go up against my two love birds and wreck everything.

When suddenly he turned on me.

“You’re going to do what?”

“Wait.” I picked up my outline and waved it in front of the computer screen. “This is not in the script!”

He paid me no mind. He had the bit in his teeth. He raced ahead.

“You’re not even who I thought you were. Or what I thought you were!”

He didn’t pause to answer. I had to follow. Right into an amazing story, at least I was amazed. It’s all in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. He took over the novel, but then transformed and – POOF — I have no villain. I have to invent a new one.

Ever had this experience when writing? How about when reading or watching a film? Did a favorite character violate your idea of who he or she was? Did one of them up and die without asking your permission first?

I want to hear all about it.


Author: Theresa Crater

Award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Other novels include School of Hard Knocks and God in a Box, both exploring women in historical context. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches meditation, as well as creative writing and British lit.

19 thoughts on “Character Surprises”

  1. Your villain sounds wonderful. I’ve had secondary characters who tried to take over the story, until I promised them a story of their own. 🙂


  2. Twice. Once when my protagonist said, “Uh, you’ve got the wrong killer, lady. In fact, that guy? He’s not a killer at all.” Another when everybody on the suspect list flat refused to be the killer. Who do these characters think is in charge, anyway?


  3. Oh yes, in fact I had it happen on the third draft of my current WIP. There I was, happily revising when I heard one of the characters laughing at me. The character shook a finger in my face (right through the laptop screen – didn’t know ASUS computers could do that), laughed, and shouted, “had you fooled!” What was stranger yet, all the clues were in place. I hadn’t followed them. Dang, I hate it when they do that. But I’m glad the character took pity on me and let me know before I sent the book to beta readers.


  4. Oh, this is great. I actually LOVE when my characters do this because I feel like if they’re a mystery to me then they make the mystery as a whole better. I had a character tell me she was hiding a debilitating disease about 75K in…and it totally worked. She could’ve shared earlier, though. Sheesh.


  5. It happens in every book. In my last book I got a chill when I learned that a super baddie was masterminding the whole plot from behind the scenes, and I don’t get to reveal that character until next book in the series–maybe, if the character allows me to.


  6. “He paid me no mind.” Ha! Well, I look forward to meeting your new villain.

    Twice for me: in the first case, I was trying to write a friendly, helper-type character who refused to be that way. Turns out that character had other plans, dastardly plans at that. In my current WIP, the intended victim simply wouldn’t be a victim. Mentioned this in passing to someone who doesn’t write fiction and they found it utterly perplexing: “but aren’t *you* writing the characters?” Well, um…technically. 😉


    1. Yes, Cynthia. And no, we’re not crazy. At least not so as we have to be locked up. I feel the same about too much pre-planning a class. It needs room to take on a life of its own, and who can say what that will look like?


  7. I am so much happier when I don’t know who the villain is in my books. That way I get to discover clues as I’m writing. Plus, the characters can do whatever they want and hopefully the truth comes out in the end. (although I’ve had a few sneaky ones who almost got away with it by hanging around the background of the story…)


  8. I have the opposite problem. I have a secondary character in my series who is the head of the police union for the Mexican state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located. He is a gray, shadowy character but he once did a good deed. Wow, I thought, I can ease up on the corruption theme and show his good side once in a while. But apparently he only had that one good deed in him. In the current WIP he is worse than ever. Sigh. I tried.


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