Challenge,  On Writing

Trust the Character

We Hear That All the Time…

Trust the Character… What it basically means is just stay true to the character you have set up in the opening of a story and let them tell the story to you. It is your creative voice playing through the character, but it is great fun to just follow a character you are writing just as you follow a character you are reading in another author’s book.

I am always surprised by my characters when writing.

Well, this last week I’ve been puttering along on a novel, not doing more than a thousand or two thousand words a day, even though I really like the main character and had got off to a good start with the book.

Then it dawned on me tonight that a secondary character in the book flat didn’t belong in the book and didn’t want to be in the book, or at least my creative voice didn’t want that character in the book.

That secondary character played a small part in my last Cold Poker Gang novel called Burn Card. And when I wrote those chapters in that mystery, I kind of knew that character would be a main character in two or three of the Cold Poker Gang novels. I didn’t plan it, just remember thinking it as I went along.

So that secondary character doesn’t want to be in this other book, in another series. Same character, both series set in Las Vegas, so the character is a cross-over. So finally tonight I realized why things were going along so slowly.

Not all sure what to do at this point. First time this has happened to me, but I clearly have that character on my mind since he ended up in this book in another series.

So guess I am just going to trust the character. I think I will back up in this novel I am working on to where that secondary character makes an appearance and delete everything and just go at it again from that point.

Or go write the Cold Poker Gang novel with that character starring in it. That is more than likely. I’ll sleep on it. See how the creative voice feels tomorrow.

Ahh, the fun of creation.


  • Kate Pavelle

    Sigh… yes. This. I’ve run into this with a series. I thought the series would have each book revolve around member of the team and the development of their powers. I had it all planned out, titles and even book cover ideas. And now I’m writing Book 7 and I find I have absolutely no interest in the character that’s supposed to star in Book 8, even though he was originally supposed to be central to the plot resolution 🙂 OTOH I’m glad to have company in this. This is normal, I guess?

  • BDS

    This won’t work in your particular case, but when this happens to me, I just kill the character off. My characters live tragic lives anyway, so this is rarely jarring.

  • Phillip McCollum

    Seems like certain things float through the universe and hit us all around the same time (kinda like a flu bug, but writer-specific). I had this same issue with a recent story. After banging my head against the wall in frustration longer than I should have, I realized I wasn’t “really” listening to my characters. Once I did that, the story flowed right along again.

  • emmiD

    LOoooooong Post.

    This has happened to me three times in recent memory, twice last year and once the year before.

    The first time an aunt with two cats launched into the book—and wound up being the totally unplanned murderer. I had picked someone else.

    The second time I decided to finish an old manuscript I had in a drawer. Looked at it, said OMG, and basically gutted everything except the personalities and major conflicts and story arc. I kept picking up the MS thinking I could use something only to shake my head, shove it back into the file folder, and just write it.

    You would think those experiences would have taught me something. Nope. I’m not a really bright bulb.

    This last time happened with a side character who decided to become a primary then invaded enough of the back half to become a protagonist. That’s the book that took from May to December. I’m working on corrections for it now.

    For this book, I reached the point where I hated it because I couldn’t make any progress. I was considering abandoning it, I thought “I’ll try just writing and ignore everything I planned.” I had a specific plan: decent tagline, scenes blocked out, everything lined up great—and I avoided and sought other projects, frittered and puttered, and basically got nowhere. May to October: about 50 pages done.

    So I decided to try one more thing. I would follow your advice about Writing into the Dark. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the planned sketch. I would just not look at the plan. I would write.

    I shoved what I had in a file folder and re-launched.

    Needless to say, two unexpected characters jumped in very quickly. They changed everything. The book took off, even though I only had 2 days a week to give to it. 98000 words at this point, writing through November and December, with only the last three weeks able to write 5 days a week. Tagline also popped out: great now. And I’m still getting other things done as well.

    Lesson learned. I’ve started the next book. Six days in, no plan, just basic info, five chapters in and happy!

    Count me a convert to myth-busting. I think this is the second myth broken. You called me out on one about two months ago, having to do with “learning story elements” which you reminded me we’ve been doing since we were babies. Now another myth is shattered.


    Time to look for a third myth that I’ve been unconsciously clinging to. Might have to claw that one out, too.

    I’ve read your indie sacred cow book, and said “yeah, yeah.” I will definitely take a closer look there then go looking for more.