You've somehow stumbled upon the page of Dan DeWitt, genre-hopping author of the zombie thriller ORPHEUS, the Norse mythology adventure ODINSONS, and the horror short-story collection UNDERNEATH. There's lots more where those came from, so stick around.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hostile takeover.

Writers are like snowflakes: no two are identical.*

However, as in any other profession, I imagine that we all share a lot of similar experiences. For example, I just assume that almost all writers have that moment when they realize that the page they just agonized over is complete rubbish; or experience that queasy feeling when someone whose opinion they care about is reading their work for the first time; or get an anger-fueled boost of confidence when they read a successful writer who isn't fit to carry their laptop.

But I wonder how many have had a character show absolutely no respect for authority and just do whatever the hell they want.

In my upcoming novel Ragnarok, it happened like this:

My main character was walking to a great dining hall in Asgard. There was a door in his way. A shieldmaiden (Valkyrie) opened the door for him. Then she shut it behind him. Her job was done. Good work, sweetheart. Now scram.

That's what I wanted her to do, and I'm THE MAN IN CHARGE.

Like Col. Nathan Jessup, when I give an order I know it will be followed, so I got back to the exploits of my MC (I won't spoil it too much, but to call it a "barroom brawl" wouldn't quite cover it).

Wait...what's this? That little minx snuck in there! Hey, somebody get her out of there before she gets noticed! Security!

She got noticed.

Then she got a name.

Then she got bold.

Then she got some.

Then, she completely ^%$#@! up my entire love interest and, therefore, a huge chunk of my novel.

Thanks for just opening the damn door like you were supposed to, Kajsa. If I didn't know better, I'd say that you did all of it on purpose.

I fought it. I had the entire thing plotted out in my head for a year, and there was no way I was going to let an anonymous character dictate my story to me.

For a few weeks I tried to write her out. Unfortunately, I had to come to grips with the fact that she was right to butt in and refuse to be ignored. The story was much better with her in it. Much.

I learned the hard way. Now, I would recommend to any new author that, if they're not sure what to do next, do just one thing:

Stop typing. Shut up. Listen to your characters. They're talking. We may bring them to life, but, if we've done our job well, they'll start living it for us.

*Believe me, I hated writing this even more than you hated reading it, but I was stuck for an opening line. Shut up, it's free. :-)


  1. LOL!

    Those characters do that sometimes. That's why even the best plotter will have to embrace just a little bit of pantser.

    And, no, you can't make them leave. They wove themselves too intricately into the plot. That's their plan ;) Get in, get tangled, get famous

  2. I love the rebel characters. That's why I have so many of them. "It's more fun to play the bad guy," someone said once, and I take that to heart in my writing. Great post Dan.