Characters · SWELL · Writing Process · Young adult writing

When Characters Surprise You!


Do your characters live and breathe? How can you tell if they do? I think you’ll just know, because all you can do is think about them. I’ve been in the kitchen chopping up carrots when a certain character or two pops into my head and the story develops from there. Where is this storyline going, how will it end? Thing is, I never know the ending. And that’s where the element of surprise is not only thrilling for the reader, but the writer as well.

I’ve tried the whole outlining deal… putting down on paper how things will occur within my stories. Beth meets Joe. Joe’s mom is sick. Joe does drugs. Beth leaves him. A-B-C-D-done. Not so. Because even with the best planning and control, you can lose everything when your characters surprise you. The perfect example of a character gone wild is Christian Rusch from SWELL. I thought I had it all planned out between him and the MC, Beck Ionesco. He was the love of her life, right? Well, he did something that completely threw me off-guard, changing the story in a way I didn’t see coming. Not to mention what it did to Beck, poor girl. In the end, Christian’s decision to make a drastic move flavored the story to make it… irresistible. Truth, I cried because he did what he did. Damn him!

I’m not complaining, though. The element of surprise keeps the pages turning, luring the reader toward the unknown with expectations that are anything but what we expect. Are you looking for fun, only to find the character taking you down a more twisted path? Trust their instincts, and go with whatever they bring to the table. It just might help you create the best damn story.

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5 thoughts on “When Characters Surprise You!

  1. This post is very timely. I am trying to finish my first cozy mystery and my characters are doing things I didn’t expect, and while it makes it interesting it is gone over the 80k words I originally intended to write. I’m sure when I get to the editing phase I can get them to stop behaving badly. LOL

  2. To me, that is the best part of writing. I was never one for in-depth character sketches. I mean, I don’t make a dossier when I become friends with someone, right? And if you don’t think you’re going to have a relationship with your charactes, well, you’re in for a big surprise. And just like in real life, good characters will flirt with you, shut you out and sometimes utterly stun you for good or bad. LIKE CHRISTIAN! OMG! Good luck with SWELL!

  3. My characters surprise me. When I’m planning and outlining, they’re two-dimensional, but once I’m writing they become very real, therefore impulsive and erratic (and sometimes breaking away from my outline).

    1. How dare they! Actually, I think it’s the best thing when the characters do their own thing. Makes the story fun to write, and adds a whole new twist (or two).

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