Character Thievery

Damn their eyes, these characters!

They say things you didn’t expect, do things you didn’t think of, steal your gosh darn story right out from under you.

You’re a writer. You know how it goes. You work out the story. You draw the character arcs. You have precisely the flow of things locked up in your cabesa.

In this story, my next opus, a very young, wealthy popinjay sort of a fellow buys the ship of an experienced privateer. The overarching conflict of the story to come is the tension between these two as they bicker over how to run the ship. Ho, ho, ho.

Instead, my young popinjay spills his guts at the first confrontation. In the blink of an eye his inflated, artificial and UNREAL stuffiness vanishes as he admits that he’s in over his head:

“Was you playing at pirates, boy?”

The character nods meekly. The popinjay is suddenly vulnerable, reasonable, and remakably human.

I didn’t tell him to do that! I don’t WANT him to do that! But he did it, and now the story is suddenly fresh, and alive, and different!

The big character arcs are the same – everybody wants what they want and will achieve it – but now the road to get there is so much better.

Curse you, major character! How dare you interrupt my carefully planned story, and MAKE IT BETTER?

When a character hijacks your story, where do you suppose that comes from? Is that you? Is that your inner writer? The person who really knows how to write, telling you what to do?

And that, my authorial friend, is why writing is such a delight!

Author: John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as

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