It’s been said that when a character takes over a story or is more fun to write than your MCs, you’re probably focusing on the wrong character’s story. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true. The idea, I suppose, comes from an assumption that your MC is doing boring stuff while this secondary character is being really exciting, so you find the secondary character more interesting, as would most people.
But you can’t forget about the writer brain. We like to procrastinate. You know what I’m talking about: that thing where we sit down to write and end up reorganizing our CDs (or in my case, playing around with the soundtrack on iTunes). So we have this great story going along, but suddenly it just seems so haaaaarrrrd. The character is doing exactly what we need him to, but we planned that weeks ago. Or, worse, we planned the next scene, and we have to get MC to it, but that seems like a chore because the current scene isn’t as exciting as that one.
This is why lots of authors drop projects and begin shiny new ideas instead. They’re shiny! And new! Of course they’re exciting.
It’s also why some novels take detours from the plot. Why trudge on to point B when your character could have all these subplot adventures over here? (You can’t see me, but I’m waving my hand over there, far away from the plot which is clearly right here. See it now? Doesn’t over there look more fun than right here?)
And sometimes we have secondary characters that seem to have all the fun while the MC has to do the work of carrying the plot. One good example for my stuff is when I added Dean to DownLoad. Here Kristie and DL had done their part and gotten me 35K through the novel without help, but, man, it was getting hard to have them just keep interacting with each other. I already knew them and how they react to everything. Suddenly, here’s Dean, silly and flirty and unpredictable, and the complete opposite of DL who I had spent so much of my book on. Of course he was fun to write about. He was new and different! But trust me when I tell you that writing a novel about Dean was not as fun as I had expected it to be. When he had to drive the plot, all the fun drained away.
To take a more better-known example, in Doctor Who, Captain Jack Harkness was a lot of fun. I adored him and still do. And so do many other people, which is probably why they gave him his own series. But the Captain Jack of Doctor Who is not the Captain Jack of Torchwood. When he became the hero, he became less fun. Yes, he still has his fun moments. The problem is that he could be sexy comic relief on DW, but once he has to drive the story, especially a story that was more serious and darker, he also had to become more serious and darker.
(And at this point you lost me to a ton of DW Jack Harkness clips on YouTube, so I thought I might share one)
Oh, hey, I’m back. So in Taylor-made, Taylor is haunted by two other BOIS. One is Austin, a soldier Simulant still fighting in the war. The other is Justin, the BOIS-friend who was returned and recycled into Taylor. I enjoy writing scenes for both of them, although Austin’s getting harder. But it’s Justin (and Malinda) that I most enjoy writing. Yet, I would never consider making him the MC. Why is that?
Well, there’d be no plot, really. The plot of the book is driven by Taylor’s love for Rosie (who is hard to win over), distress at finding out he’s a Simulant, and confusion when Malinda shows up. The plot of Justin’s story is his love for Malinda, which is easy to come by. Yes, there is conflict there, but Justin is mostly ignorant of it. And then he’s shut off. End of story. This is not a very compelling story… until you add it to Taylor figuring out about himself and to the Rosie-Taylor-Malinda love triangle. Only then does Justin’s story have a point.
So why do I enjoy writing Justin? No lie, part of it is he’s so innocent and it’s cute 🙂 But most of it is that it’s a romance that starts off easy. It’s an interesting twist to me to have the love at first sight, because that’s not what I write. Now Taylor’s in love at first sight too, but Rosie’s so vehemently against their romance to start off with that there’s nothing easy about it. The whole way he’s fighting his way into this romance and he has to win her over. And it’s exhausting. So sometimes it’s nice to take a little break and slip into Justin (or Austin)’s POV
But I think what really makes me love Justin is that he’s like a secret. Okay, a very loud secret that I shared with all of you, but in the novel he’s like a secret. (BTW, this is the time for me to shout “Simile!” because my writer friends and I are doing that every time we write one this week). Even assuming that not all the readers I will ever have read this blog, in TM the reader has a pretty good idea that Taylor is a Simulant. They even have a good idea that Justin was recycled into Taylor. But Taylor doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know why he’s being haunted by these Justin scenes. Justin’s whispering, “Pssst, I’m giving you insight into me. It’s important, but you don’t know why yet.” And I just love the knowledge that eventually it does all tie together.
So, yeah, totally love writing Justin scenes.
But, no, would never want to make this his novel.
So, assuming I didn’t lose you to a defabricated Jack Harkness, have you ever had a secondary character that you preferred writing instead of your MC(s)? And what convinced you that it was still the MC’s story?
Lots of love,