Is a Minor Character Taking Over Your Story?


This is a quote from a successful author, David Farland:

“[W]hen you’re writing, you very often have a bunch of characters in conflict, but as you begin to write, you find that one of them feels more fascinating to you, more genuine and real than the others.

“New writers will often complain at that point that a secondary character has ‘taken over’ the story, yet I sometimes wonder if they haven’t really just ‘found’ the true story, the one that feels deepest and most important to them. Many times I’ve found that the author in such cases is writing about a heroic character that is larger than life. The protagonist feels hokey and shallow. It’s when the writer begins exploring a minor character that the tale comes to life for them.”

Here is David Farland’s link:

I often speak of my protagonist, Johanna, and the magic she makes me feel. But she has a brother who has been diagnosed with the autism spectrum (- originally. Now I’ve changed it to depression). He is a teenager, high functioning within the spectrum, but tends to sound a little like a child when he speaks. His inner dialogue, his word choices and innocent reasoning patterns also sound childlike.

I remember writing several chapters from his viewpoint in the first two versions of the story, and just crying my eyes out all the time as he spoke and grappled with the cruel enigmatic world he found himself living in.

After reading David Farland’s advice, I wonder now if Johanna’s brother’s plight might not be the “true” story I need to tell.

Yeah, I cried my eyes out, whatcha gonna to do about it? My wife doesn’t even blink anymore when she sees me crying over my writing, or over some ancient animated Disney movie that makes most people smile. “If people don’t accept you for who you are, f*** ’em,” I was told by a guy who, up to that point, had never used a four-letter word when I was around.

Incidentally, this kind of emotional thing is genetic. Runs in families, but is not a dominant trait affecting all the individuals or siblings.

If you cry over things that seem transcendent or whatever, don’t fight it. Maybe it’s a gift. I think it is. You might have a lot of natural empathy. If so, you might be just the kind of individual who would find it thrillingly meaningful to perform random acts of kindness – even the type that are planned out and not entirely random.

Yesterday when I drove six hours to pick up my new doggie, Halo, I came up with the notion that the ability to choose to perform random acts of kindness, as well as the ability to enjoy them, could possibly be the one qualitative thing that separates humans from the rest of the creatures that science has uncovered. I’ll chase this down on another website when I get around to it. It could provide the basis for a non-fundamentalist type (scientific-leaning) morality.

If you’re predisposed to crying about your characters, enjoy it. Perhaps you should try not to ruminate too much over sad things, but by all means, embrace who you are and where you are in the tail of the bell-shaped curve you live in.

Maybe Farland’s insight will help you find the story your subconscious labrador retriever is dying to tell the world.

M. Talmage Moorehead

For a free copy of my new e-book, Writing Meaningful Page-Turners, opt into my email list. I won’t write to you very often, and I will never share your email with anyone, ever.  Click Here

If you’d like to read my weird in-progress novel, Hapa Girl DNA, from page 1, click here.

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