Characters · Reflection · Writing Process

When A Character Isn’t Right For You


This past June, I had an extensive character situation going on within a work-in-progress. I’d been developing this character, getting to know who he was, what made him tick and how he would fit into my story. He was the perfect guy for my main character. Or so I thought.

At first I fell head-over-heels for him, and delighted in how well he fit with my MC. They had good rapport, he played off of her talents and ideals, and the two made beautiful music during the courtship. Granted, there were some rough spots but I felt everything would work out fine.

My main character adored him as well. She let him mould her into something new, and helped her to explore the possibilities unfolding in the storyline. Most of all, he was charming yet elusive, a bad boy that every girl knows she wants but isn’t too sure about.

But after a few thousand words this Spring, this character became a tad, shall we say, shady? I often let the characters in my stories tell their own tales. This guy was taking a left turn when I thought everything was straight ahead. Seems he wasn’t who my main character thought he was. Okay, a little darkness is good. After all, I love writing the edgy stuff. But he was going somewhere else completely. This made me feel uncomfortable.

However, like most discomforts, I tend to forge ahead in spite of my gut feelings. Typing a few more thousand words, I discovered that my main character was also defying her intuition, choosing to continue a relationship with this wild one. Now, because I was about 40K words into the story, I felt an obligation to continue writing it, even though I knew this character was a bad seed who didn’t care about the main character. And darn it all, I’d already written the synopsis!

This grew into 62,000 words and a burning NO from my heart and soul about what I’d done. I allowed the character to weave his way around the story that I could not end. He hurt the MC, hurt the story and was virtually impossible to extract from the weaving. There was no way to type the last page and have closure on this story. And after all of the time spent dedicating late nights to writing it, I had to shelve everything. It hurt a lot.

See, the character wasn’t right for my main character… or me. Unfortunately, it took a long road and a lot of time behind the keyboard to discover this. He revealed a dark side that was devastating, and because he was everywhere in the story, he also ruined that. There are a few good memories I have in the beginning, when the story felt light and the characters right. But now my hindsight tells me it wasn’t so.

So, if you’re just a few inches deep into your work-in-progress, and not too sure if a particular character belongs in there, do yourself a favor – have them sit this one out. Chances are you never really needed them to begin with.

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3 thoughts on “When A Character Isn’t Right For You

  1. I had to really figure out the heroine for my current WIP, because I couldn’t get the story to move forward. I couldn’t get her name right or her personality, and it was making me crazy because the hero was all set. It finally all settled down yesterday, and since it’s in the early stages, the timing is perfect. I can’t even imagine the situation you just described. Eeek!

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