When Characters Mutiny

I’ve got my plot outlined. World-building done. Research underway. Character bios are complete. Despite the distracting news on the television, I’ve written 23k words. I’ve got a cover concept, a rough draft of a blurb. Things are sailing along.

Then…

One of my minor characters, Briar, has decided to stage a mutiny. He has a cutlass pointed at my progress, and he’s walking it up the plank.

He’s called a meeting on the quarter deck of the Windwraith. All the main characters are there, wondering why the wind in our sails suddenly died. I leave the helm and join them, arms crossed as I lean on the mizzen mast.

Briar’s pacing, eager to explain his reasons for the summons. He looks right at me. “Listen, Peach, this course you’ve charted needs some revising.”

I roll my eyes. Here we go again.

“Hear me out,” he says. “I think you’re making a mistake if you let the ferryman throw me overboard in Chapter Six.”

“Hmm,” I reply.

“You might not have meant to do it, but you’ve made me interesting. I’m nuanced.” He turns to address the rest of the crew. ”Okay, I’m a little lazy and a bit of a bully, but I have a heroic side.”

The crew chuckles as he faces me. “I’m actually younger than you first envisioned me, and I have startling blue eyes. I’ve also got all my teeth, which you can’t say for Kezo.”

The first mate smiles at me, flashing his gold tooth. I groan inwardly at the clinches. Those are coming out as soon as this irksome rebellion is over.

Briar grins. “You made me the perfect choice for some romantic tension with Marissa.”

I glance at Marissa. She shrugs. “Fine by me. It’s not really a romantic story anyway.”

“Wait,” I say. “Before you all get carried away. I’m eleven chapters in. You’re asking for some significant revisions here. If I give Briar the role, what do I do with Kellin? He was supposed to fall for Marissa.”

Briar makes a pffting noise. “That kid is too young, too naïve.” He gives Kellin an apologetic wince, then puts the blame on me. “It’s just not the right story for him. He’s like a little brother. Marissa would never fall for him. The relationship will feel forced. Your readers won’t believe it.”

Kellin sighs and rakes back his flyaway blond hair. “I kind of agree with him. You wrote me about four years too young.”

I’m tempted to argue that I wrote him exactly the way he is, but it’s not the time for a chicken/egg debate with a bunch of mutineers. And to be honest, I kind of agree that Kellin isn’t strong enough for the part.

“You know, Kellin,” I say, “if I make this change, I’ll have to kill you off.”

Briar puts on a sad face as shallow as a tide pool. “Instead of rescuing him in Chapter Eight, you could have him get shot with a pistol, fall into the sea, and drown.”

Kellin frowns at the suggestion. “She doesn’t have any pistols in the story.”

“She has to revise anyway. She can add them in.” Briar leans against the gunwale, his case made.

I narrow my eyes at him, feeling a bit shanghaied, but he’s made a few good points, and the changes feel right. None of the crew looks miffed. Even Kellin seems to understand that his death would make a better story. He’s a nice kid… Readers will feel the loss.

“Fine,” I say. “I need to go back and plot the changes before we sail any farther into the Deep. Shore leave is cancelled until we’ve caught up.” I gesture to the first mate. “Brace about. We’re changing course.”

As the big man takes the wheel and bellows orders to the crew, I retreat to my cabin. I log into Word and scroll back to Chapter One. Then I open the internet and look up everything I ever wanted to know about flintlock pistols.

(Names have been changed to minimize spoilers).

Do your characters do this to you?

205 thoughts on “When Characters Mutiny

  1. You even make this interesting and a bit funny. I’ve never tried fiction so I wouldn’t know but your process is intriguing. How fun and frustrating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the visit and comment. Despite the rework, I enjoy the collaboration with my characters. It really does make the story feel “alive” and surprising. Usually it’s not this drastic! Have a great day and Happy Writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Silent Hour says:

    I loved this! What really makes me smile is how your character, and your muse, call you Peach.

    My characters don’t do exactly that, as my stories are shorter, but they tend to create their own dialogue.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL. I didn’t even realize that they both call me “Peach.” I wonder if they’re in cahoots! I actually like it when my characters speak up, even if it makes lots of extra work! Keeps the writing alive. Thanks for the visit, Basilike. Be well, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Silent Hour says:

        They do call you ‘Peach’ and I love it, because it sounds as if you are new in the army and they are your leutenants who are going to toughen you up. It helps that you have a sweet last name too.

        I love it too when the characters take matters in their hands. Even if I don’t want to use what they come up with, they provide insights into who they are, and great notes for future use.

        Have a great weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s funny, Basilike, that my characters didn’t start out as pirates, but they’re getting more “pirate-ish” as the story progresses. It’s been fun writing these guys, and yes, letting them become who they are. 😀

          Like

  3. olganm says:

    It sounds like the mutiny might be a good thing, Diana. Have fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Teri Polen says:

    I adored this, Diana, lol! I’ve had similar convos with my characters, but not to this extent. Until I saw the disclaimer at the bottom about name changes, I’d made a note to not get too invested in Kellin while reading the book!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha ha. It usually isn’t this bad, Teri. My characters weigh in all the time, but they rarely force me to go back to the beginning for rewrites before I’m even halfway through the draft. But it makes writing fun. You’ll forget all this before the book comes out. Lol. Thanks for reading and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. J.D. says:

    I believe that because you respect your characters enough to listen to them, this is a reason why you’re so prolific. Generosity of heart breeds prosperity of inspiration. 💖

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the wonderful comment, Julie. I don’t mind it at all. It keeps this whole process interesting, exciting, and alive for me, even though it makes for more work! I find it rather entertaining overall. Dang characters! I’ve already red-penned most of the adjustments, so we’re back on course. Happy Writing, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jan Sikes says:

    Lol! I love this, Diana. Anyone who is not a writer would not begin to understand but we all do! How exciting!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! I agree! It’s something that seems weird until it actually happens I think a lot of authors experience unruly characters, Jan, it’s up to us to let them be themselves but not let them completely hijack the story. The fun of writing. Thanks for the visit and comment. Happy Writing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like Briar, he’s got spunk. It’s hard to sidestep a bunch of characters when they decided to stage mutiny, haha! Sounds like a great pirate adventure taking shape. You are so awesomely talented and productive Diana! It will be a great book.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Lana. I’m glad you enjoyed this. This will be a sea adventure, but no pirates, although this this group is very pirate-ish. Lol. This one will be a stand alone, so a lot less writing pressure. I hope to have it ready to go this summer. 🙂 Thanks for the fun comment, my friend. Be well and Happy Writing. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it’s a good sign when a character rebels. It means the character has a strong personality, and that’ll come through for the readers.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. dgkaye says:

    I love the way you evoked your character and outline thoughts. As a nonfiction writer, I have enough trouble with the real people in my books, lol. ❤

    Liked by 4 people

    • Part of me thinks it would be harder to write real people, Debby, because a non-fiction author is writing from a particular perspective as well as making interpretations about others, all the while trying to represent the truth. It’s easier to just make everything up! Lol. A post from you about how you navigate that would be really interesting (someday when life calms down. 🙂 ) Thanks for the visit, my friend. Be well. ❤

      Liked by 3 people

      • dgkaye says:

        You bring up a very interesting subject Diana. And so funny, as I always thought it was much more difficult to build worlds. Go figure, such vast differences in writing these two opposite genres. And thanks for the food for thought. I will definitely write a post on the topic and tag you for rising the question. Just wrote a short draft note in a post to write about. Thanks Diana, I’ll let you know when I write and post. I do have a few already lined up for posting, but that will be fun to write. ❤ Hugs xx

        Liked by 2 people

        • You’re right about “opposite genres.” I love how we all find our interest and joy, and that they don’t match! And no rush, no pressure, of course. It was just an idea that popped up. I enjoy reading about author’s thought processes and how they approach their work. ❤

          Liked by 2 people

          • dgkaye says:

            Love the prompt, already in draft, will come to life in 2-3 weeks lol ❤ And you said, the best thing about being writers is as many books that are competition, each has its own originality to offer, just have to find the appropriate readers for. 🙂 ❤

            Liked by 2 people

  10. My WIP is an adaptation of a screenplay I wrote about a decade ago that was kind of intended to be a Seth Rogan–style comedy. When I started plotting the novel, using the old script as a malleable outline only (because I knew the tone of the screenplay wouldn’t translate to the prose form, and that would necessitate both tonal and structural alterations), I discovered that one character wanted an entirely new personality (even though she continued to serve the same plot function), and another character — a comical antagonist who gets his comeuppance — actually wanted redemption in the new iteration of the story! And I felt my job was to simply listen to what my characters were saying, and not push them somewhere they no longer wanted to go. So, in that respect, Diana, I completely relate to the literary mutiny you recently had on your hands!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ha ha. I’m not surprised by the number of authors that have encountered assertive characters. Your comment got me smiling, Sean, because I can totally see it. I love it when my characters insist on being themselves, despite the extra work. The writing feels fluid, the people alive, just like “real” life. How’s your writing coming along? I still waiting to read. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • In light of the George Floyd murder and my awakening about police fiction (as explored in “Forget It, Jake, It’s Tinseltown”) I’m honestly not sure I even want to release EFRI anymore — I don’t know that doing so would be socially responsible. I’m going to write a few companion pieces to my novella Spex and compile them in an anthology of wish-fulfillment stories of magical realism, and when my current WIP is finished (a full-length novel), I’ll probably self-pub it. So, publication is still a ways off — it won’t be this year, alas — but I’m definitely done with querying my work to prospective agents/editors; they never respond, and on the rare instance you get them to agree to read your material, they never get around to it. Message received. My work deserves to be published, and if I can’t find anyone who will do that, I’ll do it myself.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so glad you made that decision about self-publishing, Sean. But I’m glad you tried the traditional route, too, just to know that you gave it a go. I remember querying and getting “auto-rejections” within a quarter-second of hitting send. WTF? You’ll love self-publishing and being the master of your domain. I, for one, look forward to reading your work. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you for the encouragement, Diana — that seriously means the world to me! Right now, the goal is to finish and polish my materials — and that’s a project I expect will occupy the whole of 2021 — but when the point comes to put on my “publisher’s hat,” I’ll definitely need some advice! I hope, when the times comes, you won’t mind if I reach out to you privately to poll your wisdom…?

            Liked by 1 person

  11. I. Love. This. Yes, our characters have us wrapped around their fingers. And really-that is where we (and our typing fingers) are meant to be wrapped. Characters rule!! Mixed metaphor here but you know what I mean. 😂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lol. I actually enjoy these mutinies, Pam. They’re spot on to keeping our characters authentic and stories “alive.” The rework is well worth it. It’s the magic of writing that keeps us coming back despite the work. Thanks so much for the morning smile. Happy Writing, my friend. ❤ ❤ Hugs.

      Like

  12. Widdershins says:

    Bwhahahahahah! 😀 … diabolical, they are! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Staci Troilo says:

    “I’m nuanced.” That says it all, doesn’t it? Loved this post, Diana. Best wishes with your WIP. Sounds like you have your hands full. But it also sounds like you’re getting some good advice from your characters.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Staci. I love it when characters take over and assert themselves. The story feels alive and the surprises make writing fun even though it also makes for more work. Briar’s in and poor Kellin… Have a wonderful Wednesday and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Yes I’ve found characters can sometimes do surprising things and even change where the story was going. They seem to have a life of their own.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad you can relate, Joanne. Though it creates some revision and replotting, I enjoy it. To me, The story and characters come alive and the surprises make the writing fun. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. markbierman says:

    Oh Briar, look what you’ve done, you rascal!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I know! Back to the drawing board to see what happens next. I actually love it when the characters speak up. The story feels alive to me. I just don’t need these surprises every day! Thanks for stopping by, Mark. Have a wonderful day and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Quite the intriguing insight to your writing process. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Angelo, and for taking the time to read. This happened on Sunday and I thought it would be fun to share. My characters are very vocal when they don’t think things are headed in the right direction. Have a wonderful day and be well. 😀

      Like

  17. My two cents? Oh God, you gotta keep Briar. I’m already crushing on him! Who wants a young blond lad, when you can have a dashing rogue? You know what you have to do, Peach.
    PS: an oceany piratey book huh??? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Thank you for this fabulous & humorous peek into your writing world!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I had two sub-villains die before I was ready to kill them off. Yet, weirdly enough, it all worked out for the best that they died at those points in the story.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Isn’t that cool? I like it when stories start to tell themselves. To me, it feels magical, as if the story and characters have suddenly passed some threshold and come alive. I think it’s great that you went with it. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

      • It really does feel magical when that happens. I had one subplot where I wanted my one character, Robin, to stay for Ambrose’s wedding on Sunday. And I needed him to be there for Ambrose’s wedding because it was important for further plot developments.

        I swear all of my characters kept telling him that he should just leave town before Sunday. Even Ambrose! Ambrose gave Robin the okay to skip out on his wedding! And I was just the poor author over here trying to give Robin a legitimate, non-forced reason for him to stay for the wedding.

        It all worked out in the end, but oh my gosh! Those guys did not make it easy for me. 😂

        Like

  20. That is hilarious. Mine generally do their own thing within my plotting. It’s like watching a movie and writing what I see. Yours are pretty pushy!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. This was such a fun post! I really enjoyed it. I haven’t had a character mutiny before. They just sulk and roll their eyes when I put words in their mouths they would never say.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. acflory says:

    Priceless, Diana Wallace Peach! I hate to rub salt in the wound but…Briar is memorable already. I fear there’s more mutiny ahead. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  23. oh my if you kill him off you better not tell him first or you’ll have trouble on your hands. But it sounds like you already have. I’d sleep with the pistol under your pillow tonight Diana just in case.
    It sounds like a great read! Bravo! 👏👏👏👏❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  24. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    This happens all the time to me, Diana:) Why I stopped outlining the story. Sounds like a good change, but I already feel sad about Kellin…lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s so funny that it drove you to give up on outlining. I just go back and tweak it (or more than tweak it – lol). I’m glad you can relate even though the changes can be annoying. I think it’s great, actually, that characters push to be authentic. It certainly makes writing interesting! Have a wonderful evening and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

      • D.L. Finn, Author says:

        You’re right it does make them more authentic and definitely keeps it interesting. I do notes now over the outline so I don’t get lost. Thanks, happy writing to you and hope your evening goes well.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. I love this, Diana! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Love it….I can so visualize this meeting….better now than later I guess! Still chuckling!! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Goodness, you almost had a mutiny and you haven’t even begun the voyage!
    This is going to be a fun read, I can tell already. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Jacquie. This one will be a stand-alone and hopefully a fun voyage. I’m having fun writing it, but we keep having these glitches. Ha ha. I’ll buckle under soon and hopefully have the first draft done by the end of Feb. IF the characters behave!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Yes, they do get a life of their own and at times it’s hard to rein them in. Probably best to let them go and see where it leads.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad you can relate, Anneli. This exchange happened on Sunday, and it was so vivid that I decided to share it. Usually my characters are right and they improve the story. Thankfully, I wasn’t tooo far into the draft. Have a great day and Happy Writing, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember once writing the dialogue of two characters and I had a particular end goal for that scene, but partway through the dialogue, one of the characters said something I hadn’t expected and the whole thing took a different turn. I sat by the keyboard afterwards and did the silent handclap and said, “Ooohh! I didn’t know THAT was going to happen.” It was fun!

        Liked by 1 person

  29. I’ve always read about how characters can take over during the creative process of writing and go their own way, Diana. I really enjoyed this example. Good luck with the pistol. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s an interesting dynamic, Curt. I trust my characters to be themselves and speak up if something doesn’t feel right. They create extra work but the storytelling feels fresh and “alive.” The research on the pistol will give me a few details to add authenticity, as well as to make sure I don’t make any big mistakes. They’re not very efficient weapons, that’s for sure! Thanks for the visit!

      Like

  30. Mae Clair says:

    Ha, ha! This was so much fun, Diana.
    I had this happen to me in the my third novel.A secondary character threw a curve ball and demanded I change his role, which in turn changed the plot. I’m glad I listened to him. Readers loved him. I think readers are going to love your “Briar” too 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad you can relate, Mae. I always let my characters be themselves, but sometimes they throw a big wrench into the gears. This one wasn’t too bad because it’s still early in the draft. And it’s wise for us to listen to them because they’re often right! Thanks for stopping by to read. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. balroop2013 says:

    When characters step in to make changes, they embellish their role. I like your approach of giving them a free hand Diana. All the best for the hard work ahead.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Balroop. I actually enjoy these “mutinies.” They tend to address something that wasn’t working and they force me to adjust. And they are a bit exciting too because they lead to a better book. I hope you have a wonderful afternoon. Happy Writing, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  32. petespringerauthor says:

    I enjoyed this piece so much, Diana. These darn characters have minds of their own, don’t they? The struggle is real, particularly when you go down a rabbit hole and realize that you wish you wouldn’t have gone there. I’m still a bit of a novice with this, particularly fiction, but I do get this character struggle. Nobody said this was easy. I suppose that’s part of the mental challenge that I find most satisfying.

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Hi. I haven’t written books. My writing is confined to shortish pieces. But even with them I don’t know exactly where they are going. Sometimes they end up far different from what I originally envisioned.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can imagine. Isn’t it fun? I love the way a story changes and surprises. It’s a bit of a challenge when you’re already 100 pages in, but still… Thanks for stopping by to read. Have a wonderful day and Happy Writing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Deborah Jay says:

    Lol, this is why I don’t do more than a rough plot, very largely the start, the climax, and a few necessary points along the way to keep character development on track.
    Even then, they sometimes outwit me!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think I plot a little more deeply than that, Deborah. Perhaps 40 paragraphs describing partial scenes in sequence. But I love leaving a lot of space for the characters to be themselves. Those discoveries are the most surprising part of the writing journey. Thanks for the visit and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. The story of my writing life! Nothing ever goes as planned because there’s always that ONE character who knows better than me! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Wow Diana thank you so much for a little glimpse of your awesome book and the characters too are nice and fun loving. Great of you conversing with them feels as if they are true to themselves. Lovely post.

    Liked by 3 people

  37. Darlene says:

    It happens! I had a cat wanting to take over in one of my books. Sheesh!

    Liked by 3 people

  38. trentpmcd says:

    lol. My characters do speak for themselves, particularly after the initial rough draft, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a full fledged mutiny. Maybe the closest is my current WIP. I did a complete rewrite between rough and first draft and added a main character so I could have someone in the inner circle die. This character ends up living and I killed off another character that had originally made it through unscathed…

    Liked by 3 people

  39. I’ve yet to write a book for this very reason. I think I would go mad. But if I know you and your gift of tying it all together, this will be amazing! ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha ha. No, you wouldn’t go mad, because usually the characters make good points and it feels right. I love this part of writing because even though I’ve plotted the story, it feels alive. Thanks for your lovely comment and encouragement, Holly. Have a peaceful, creative day. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  40. Val Boyko says:

    Briar is more than a thorn in your side 😉 I really enjoyed this writing …. and his attitude!

    Liked by 3 people

  41. V.M.Sang says:

    The first time one of my characters made a change to my book I thought I was going mad. Then I discovered that it happens all the time, which made me feel a lot better. I’ve got a character at the moment who keeps telling me he should have a bigger part in the story. And another who kind of sneaked a bigger role almost without me noticing.
    I love the way you describe the mutiny, though.

    Liked by 3 people

    • LOL. Your description of your characters vying for bigger roles made me laugh, Vivienne. That’s exactly what happens here too. It’s disorienting, but I notice that my characters are often right, and the stronger personality (the more interesting to readers) often wins the argument. I love this about writing – it makes the creative process so alive. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  42. noelleg44 says:

    You do interact with your characters on a personal basis. I’ve never had one mutiny but some have gone bad on me!

    Liked by 3 people

    • LOL. That’s so funny and probably very similar. I’m an outliner, Noelle, but I think being flexible and willing to make changes is critical. Characters have to be themselves. Thanks for stopping by to read, and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  43. Oh, yes! And how I had a good chuckle while reading this post. In “Out of Time,” my recent book, one of the characters, Lexie, was supposed to be the villain. But like Briar, she rebelled. And Lexie has a very strong personality. So what could I do? As far as I’m concerned, characters should drive the action of any book, regardless of genre. I so hate it when characters are marched through a plot. Really, it ruins a book for me. A character can certainly change, but the writer had better darned well make a convincing case for this. 😉 Any, onward, ho with Briar!

    Liked by 5 people

  44. olamstring says:

    This is amazingly great

    Liked by 3 people

  45. Thanks for the fun peek into the life of a writer’s life Diana. I love that your characters come so to life that you dialog with them. It sounds more like a team huddle than a mutiny, although mutiny plays better as a story line! Beware the second mate. I think he’s plotting his own coup!

    Liked by 6 people

  46. Never mind the book – this is a great story 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  47. Sometimes our characters know best. You got this, Diana!

    Liked by 4 people

  48. Tessa says:

    Briar definitely made some good points. Back to work 😊

    Liked by 4 people

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