Help! My minor characters are taking over my novel in progress!

I think I am about one-third of the way through writing the second Spider John mystery, “The Devil’s Wind.” It is shaping up well.

Of course, it may not all go according to my plot outline. Minor characters are growing on me, and insisting on having their own agendas and plans. And in many cases, their damned plans are interfering with mine.

For instance, the carpenter’s mate finds himself  enraptured by a beautiful passenger aboard Redemption. Never mind that she is secretive, and married, and has been seen consorting with a sadistic and dangerous man. My young fool of a carpenter’s mate can’t seem to help himself, and it is just going to be trouble for everyone.

And then there is the crusty old one-eyed rigger, who may well decide to kill someone himself. Never mind that my pirate characters are supposed to be laying low, doing legitimate maritime work in hopes of leaving the pirate life behind. Never mind that the author has already laid out a different fate for the rigger’s potential victim. No, the damned one-eyed rigger thinks maybe he should kill the bloody bastard, and the author’s plans be damned.

 And so as these so-called minor characters make their schemes, the author has to account for them and revise his own plans.

It’s all very complicated, and may result in a longer book than I envisioned, but honestly it is a lot of fun spinning this story through my head, looking at if from various angles and discovering what my characters will do next. 

I take it all as a good sign. I have a solid plot, and I know the bones of the story very well. But a novel needs blood and flesh, too, and, for me, that comes from the characters. I don’t need them wandering woodenly through my plot, doing specific things at specific times to conveniently move things along according to my outline. I need them living and breathing, messing up my protagonist’s life and sending things off in unpredictable directions. It’s more work for me, of course, but it is more fun for me, too … and I hope more fun for the reader, as well.


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