There’s Nothing Like a “Why Did You Do That?” Moment

Sometimes my characters surprise me.  I’ve been editing my novel “Read Me Dead” lately.   I thought I had everything set up with my characters until one day, last Wednesday actually.  Even after changing my novel from third person to first person point of view, I thought I had everything situated.  I knew which direction they would take and who would end up with whom, etc.  I knew my main character, Alex, would push herself away from everyone she knew to keep them safe from the murderer that threatened her life.  That was until one of my minor characters, Landon, forced himself into Alex’s life more than he was supposed to.  Really, he was basically written out of the novel half-way through it before the re-write.

I know.  I sound nuts.  Like maybe my characters are actually real people.  Maybe I am nuts, but these characters seem to have a mind of their own the more I continue to write with them.  They decide what happens.  I don’t know how they take over, but they do.  I have every intention of writing one scene a certain way when it comes out a completely different way.  They just show up when they want to.  I can’t complain though.  It has made the story more interesting with more conflicts and such, but it always amazes me how this happens.

This also brings to mind character-driven stories/novels.  I always thought I focused more on the plot.  Maybe I did before now, but this novel has changed that completely.  I always thought that the story would be Alex running from a murderer, but in reality, it’s about her just being a teenager and dealing with what life has thrown at her.  The story is her.  It’s about her attitude towards life and love and about her craving normalcy.  I never intended for this to happen, so I’m baffled that it has.

I think it was always meant to be this kind of book.  I just didn’t know it until it happened, thanks to my characters.

Feel free to share any instances like this that have happened to you.


7 thoughts on “There’s Nothing Like a “Why Did You Do That?” Moment

  1. DarkStorm2Bad

    I find that characters run amock and take hold of their own destiny quite a lot whenever I’m trying to write something. It’s like one part of my brain says No! That’s not supposed to happen; what about the planned story?”, and another part says “Cool your jets, let’s see where they’re going with this.”

    As we develop personalities and traits for our characters, we get a better idea of how they live, think, and feel. If a character’s supposed to cower in fear at some point in the story, and yet we know that the character is naturally courageous, then we may find ourselves writing the character acting according to his/her bravery, and that can take the story in a whole different direction, and most of the time that direction is more realistic in relation to the characters themselves.


    1. Emerald Barnes

      You are so right! That’s what happened with my character, Landon, in this revision. He was supposed to just give up and not fight for the girl he loves, but he didn’t. He fought for her, and it’s worked out brilliantly for him so far. It was more realistic for him like this, so I agree with you 100%. Thanks for the comment!


  2. We develop characters to be as believable and real as possible, and then when we write them doing something that doesn’t make sense within the confines of their created personality, our instincts tell us that we’re doing it wrong. As a writer, the best thing you can do is trust your instincts. We know how the story is supposed to go, we know how characters are supposed to act, but sometimes we get so fixated on how we think the plot should run, that we ignore that little voice in the background while we’re writing. Thankfully, there’s always revision time.


    1. You are so right! Sometimes I forget that my characters are allowed to grow throughout the story and ignore that fact because I’m focused on the plot. But, as you said, our instincts bring us back to what’s right for the story. I have to remind myself this as I sit down to write everyday!

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂


  3. Oh, absolutely. My detective character and her assistant met this scruffy 12-year-old runaway. They got her out of some trouble, and at the end of that story she called them Mom and Dad. To everybody’s surprise (the new parents, their friends, the daughter, me) they adopted her and she is now a huge part of their lives.

    That wasn’t part of any plan I had, that’s for sure.


  4. It’s really been fun to write, that’s for sure, and she’s been a part of all the later mystery stories as well. Sometimes pretty central, sometimes just at the beginning and the end. And she’s going to be a big part of the rewrite of the third novel (which takes place after the mysteries).


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