Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Disobedient Characters

Salva does not want to go home. Salva (aka Salvador) is the main character in the book I am working on now, Salvation, and he does not want to go home. Which is where I need him to go. For various reasons. But . . . did I mention he does not want to go?

Apparently this is not a unique phenomenon. When I had the opportunity of hearing Tamora Pierce speak at the Sirens: Women in Fantasy Literature Conference last fall, she talked about how Evy refused to go to the palace. Somewhere about thirteen chapters later, Evy finally went.

So what do authors do when a character refuses to go where we need them to go?

There are several approaches.

First, there is listening. Nine times out of ten, I would say that listening is successful. Once you find out why your character has issues, you can usually find your way around them.

This did not work with Salva.

Next there is detouring. Detouring usually involves more effort. It requires an extra scene or an extra chapter or two in order to help the character get whatever issues he or she has out of the way.

This also has not worked with Salva. He needs to go home. So he can be yelled at. And he doesn’t want to.

Sometimes there is bowing to your characters’ wishes. “OK,” you say to them. “We won’t go there. We’ll go here instead.” And they cheer up and follow blithely along and you zip them back into your plotline via a circuitous route.

This also will not work with Salva. It is imperative that he go home.

Which brings me to the last option. You tell the character to suck it up and just go where you want them to go.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, this will not work. I’m not sure it would ever work with Aurelia. But Salva is being a coward, and Beth and I agree that he should just go home.

So we’re sending him.


  1. Haha thank you for writing this! It was entertaining and helpful at the same time :)

  2. Oh, I'm glad it was helpful Lexi! Someone should get something out of the experience. FYI, he finally went home at about 1:30 a.m. yesterday morning.

  3. Heh. This made me laugh. I hope all goes well for Salva. XD (Stubbornness can be an endearing trait. :P)

  4. See now, thank you! I try SO HARD to explain to my dear, devoted father just how hard it is to make a character do something when they don't want to do it. My dad's always like, "It's writing. Just write that she's doing...blah blah blah." And I try with, "Dad, it's like trying to move a hippo with a straw. She just won't do it." And around and around and around it goes!

    I feel a great surge of relief reading this post. And I've also grown a little fonder of my character, who is as stubborn as they come. Her name means "passionate" or the Celtic word meaning "high". I take that to mean "high and mighty" because she just won't BUDGE when I want her to!

    Great post! :)

    -Amelia R.

  5. Hi Amelia,

    ROTFL, I think we must be kindred spirits. You are definitely an author!

    J, I hope things go well for him too.