Character Coup

Last week I began writing my third novel. I know! Exciting, right?

I don’t know about you, but writing the first draft of a novel is always a love-hate type situation. Mostly because I don’t plan my plot ahead of time.

Why, yes, now that you ask, I suppose that does contribute to the OBSCENE amount of editing I have to do after finishing the first draft. It’s just how I roll, yo.

Oh, I’ve tried to plan. I’ve outlined, I’ve done the Post-It note thing, I’ve tried whiteboarding… but you know what happens every single time I do this? After I carefully plot out every twist and turn of the story? I make it approximately three chapters in before I get slapped in the face by one of my characters.

It’s a CHARACTER COUP!

You know how this goes, right? You thought Toby the track star was going to be your MC’s love interest, but then all of a sudden Toby looks at you and goes, “Nah, I think I’m going to set the high school on fire instead and then spend the rest of the book stalking your MC.”

“No!” you cry. “Toby, just calm down, okay? You can’t do that. You’re supposed to be all shy and distant until Chapter 10, at which point you do this really heroic thing and win the reader over for good, and then in Chapter 21 the MC will realize she’s been in love with you all along.”

Toby shakes his head. “I don’t think so. I’d rather set the school on fire. I wanna be the bad guy.”

“But… but I outlined!” you stutter, staring at your hands like you can actually see the story slipping through your fingers.

“Too bad,” Toby says as he adjusts his leather jacket and lights a cigarette. Then he flicks you off and laughs as he walks away.

The Character Coup, my friends.

This happened to me with SYNTHESIS, my second book. And it came totally out of the blue. This guy I thought would be a love interest through the whole thing turned out to be a complete psycho and suddenly I had a villain on my hands. And you know what?

He was awesome as a villain. That Character Coup? It was the best thing that could have happened for the story. It was unexpected, totally creepy, and it broke the reader’s heart just a little bit – but not so much that they would be angry about it.

Which of your characters have staged a coup against you, and how have they done it? Did you see it coming or did it take you completely by surprise? I’d love to hear about it!

Want to share this post?

11 thoughts on “Character Coup

  1. Suzi McGowen says:

    I’m actually just in awe that you’re writing with a new baby. Do you sleep at all?

    I had a character coup. Evil bad guy who wanted to be love interest changed to evil woman that wanted to bring my MC to the dark side. I think the story is better for it, but it did mean having to update my outline, and I’m still finding spots where “he” does this, and I have to change it to “she”. Sigh.

  2. DL Hammons says:

    I’m an outliner as well, and I try to give my characters an avenue to vent their frustrations and make their motivations known, but at the end of the day I’m the boss and they end up seeing things my way. 🙂

  3. Kelly Lyman says:

    I just started my first draft of a new project and this is the first time that I’m going by an outline. However, I am working on chapter 6 and I think one of my characters is about to change the game on me. He hasn’t come out and said anything yet, but I feel the rumblings. I didn’t outline with my first book and I have SO much work to do on it now…which is why it is on the back burner. I needed time away so I can be more objective.

  4. Jordyn says:

    YES!
    And the best/worst character coup is when my MC falls for a guy she’s not supposed to. It’s like, DUDE, I CREATED YOU, NOW DO WHAT I SAY!! but apparently this girl wants to fall in love with the guy who’s supposed to be her rival instead of the sweet boy who’s her best friend.

  5. myne Whitman says:

    That was a funny skit. I had one character coup in my current WIP. There was another love interest of the Heroine who was supposed to be the bad guy, but guess what? He ends up giving relationship advice to her to get with the hero. How weird is that? I left it in…lol..

  6. Anne Riley says:

    Suzi: LOL, yes, I do actually sleep! Baby Girl is almost 7 weeks old and giving us 6-7 hours uninterrupted sleep at a time each night. I feel like a small miracle has occurred.

    Jess and DL: Hmmm. Apparently you each have more control over your fictional people than I do. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard for me, but… it is.

    Kelly: Ooh the rumblings of mutiny. Be careful out there, lady.

    Jordyn: Exactly! Who do these characters think they are, turning the tables on us like that?

    Raquel: I kind of love it when a side character turns out to be one of your best. That happened in my first book and I really loved it.

    Myne: Yep, that kind of thing happens to me all the time, and like you said I usually end up leaving it in. Ha!

  7. Natalie Cone says:

    Anne,
    OMG I’m laughing so hard at your post. You write so cleverly, for one thing. And I can relate, which made it even funnier. I also have a very hard time pre-plotting and planning my stories, because they have a life of their own.
    I’d been working on a book about a teenager named Fallon. When I sat down to write out scenes, not only did the characters twist the story into unplanned directions, but it took itself into MORE THAN ONE direction. Random (but totally AWESOME) scenes just presented themselves into my imagination, and I wrote with reckless abandon. When I finally spread everything out before me, I realized that Fallon was not the MC for all of these scenes. There were TWO DIFFERENT MC’s, and I didn’t even realize it. Two different stories. I was simply starting in the wrong place. I should have started with story #1, Fallon’s mother (Noel) then continued into story #2, Fallon’s story. So NO WONDER I was having frequent holy fits trying to put the dang thing together! You can’t smush two stories together and expect them to fit! LOL

  8. melissa says:

    ACK! I’m having this problem right now. During edits of Novel 1, MC’s love interest has up and decided he’s not so into her anymore and is hitting on her BEST FRIEND!!! At first I wanted to beat him into submission, but now I’ve accepted it and am re-writing where shy guy has now become the secret love interest. It’s definitely annoying though.

    I feel your pain.

Comments are closed.