Facing a Character Uprising: Whip and a Chair, Please.


I told her, "Ain't happening. Not doing that. Not now. Not ever."

I told her, “Ain’t happening. Not doing that. Not now. Not ever.”

We all recognize it. The signs are obvious. Our carefully mapped out story which we worked to meet the three arc story structure is not staying in line. And we all know whose fault it is. It’s not the hard-working writer. No. It is always a cantankerous character determined to forge his own path. How dare he! So we attempt to woo him into line, to no avail of course.

After a bit of head banging – ours not his – we look at our beautifully structured outline and realize the inevitable. This is not truly our story. It may have started in our hands, and we may have molded its beginnings, but the minute the protagonist entered and began relating to other characters we relinquished a degree of control. We still control syntax and diction. We have a say over format and structure. Those chapters and scenes are still somewhat within our purview, but try to tell your character how things will go for the rest of his story and see how quickly he stops talking to you.

Wrestling your character to force him into line with your original vision is a bit like wrangling an alligator. You either wind up an hors d’ oeuvre or you own a pretty but lifeless pair of shoes. It’s always best when a character steps up to the plate and takes over to let them have the wheel. You can step in when you need to and rein in the parts you control but let the character tell his or her story. It is their journey, their path. In the end, we wouldn’t want anyone else telling our story, would we?

How do you handle character rebellions?

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