Unruly characters

I’ve been thinking about characters this morning.

For book one, we had three main pools of readers: the initial few who read it before it went into the trunk, people who helped with editing and feedback further down the road, and a group of advance readers toward the end. You’d think that I’d be hyper-focused on what they’re saying about the book, but there’s something much more interesting going on.

What keeps catching my attention is the different ways that people process what they read. Or maybe it’s just about how they approach reading in general. When they talk about what they noticed, or what they thought, I’m not just getting feedback, I’m getting a small window into how they think. Some people seem to approach it from a wide-angle view — the experience as a whole — while others dive so far into the details that they spot things even I didn’t notice, or make connections in a way that I never expected.

What’s really surprised me is how a particular character — a minor character — apparently made an impression on some people. Which is kind of fantastic, really. I thought that this character was just a bit player, but some readers felt otherwise.

As it turns out, they were right, and I was wrong.

I didn’t think, “Gee, people seem to like so-and-so, I should make that character more important.” I have a near-superstitious dread when it comes to trying to force anything. Trying to force a change never works; it usually just wrecks a bunch of stuff. The chips fall where they may. I won’t even save a character that I like from a terrible, awful, very bad fate, if that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

So… what happened? Was this character meant to play a greater role in the story, and I just didn’t see it until I wrote it? Or did I internalize the feedback, run it through my subconscious a few times, and then it popped back up when I least expected it? Or are my readers just smarter than I am?

Probably option number three. Or maybe it’s some combination of smart readers + unruly characters who just love to confound me. Either way, it makes writing these things nerve-wracking, but also a heck of a lot of fun.



I spotted these the other day, and I… just… what is up with this? It’s a bunch of nightmare trees wrapped in blue lights. They almost look ok in this photo, but when you see them in context… look, if those trees just appeared in my yard one day, I would run. It looks like someone started to decorate, then gave up and walked away. Or maybe the trees scared the hell out of them and they ran.

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