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.

Why We Must Write


My son the psychologist-in-training tells me that there are five things that have been “proven” via evidence-based analysis to improve happiness.

1. Writing a daily journal.

2. Writing down three good things that happened every day.

3. Meditation.

4. Physical exercise.

5. Random acts of kindness.

I think it’s interesting that the first two have to do with writing. My son tells me that the first one, keeping a journal, applies to anything you’re creating that becomes part of the physical world. It could be writing and recording songs, writing fiction or non-fiction, even things like painting, where you put something of yourself into the physical world.

“Meditation,” according to my son, actually means practicing anything that keeps you in the moment. This might even apply to playing basketball, a thing that I wouldn’t have placed into the meditation category at all. But he says that it keeps you from ruminating about past uncomfortable conversations, embarrassments and disappointments, and keeps you from worrying about future difficulties…

For me, basketball keeps me in the moment better than traditional meditation does, at least what little I’ve experienced of sitting quietly and trying to silence my mind. And writing fiction works better than basketball.

It seems that writing can take care of several things on the short list of happiness promoters.

Writing my novel keeps me in the moment. If I’ve got big worries, I don’t want to write. I can’t. But if I can make myself start writing, most worries shrink to a manageable size for as long as I keep submerged in my characters. And when I’m done, I feel like I’ve accomplished something that sort of transcends the worries.

For me, writing fiction is also like journaling because I’m putting something of myself into ‘print’ and making it part of the physical world.  The ciberworld, maybe, but I do hold out hope of taking the world by storm with my amazing best-seller, or at least finding my way into the vanity press, which, as you know, seems to be reaching readers quite effectively of late, and deserves a less pejorative title, in my humble and yet infallible opinion.

Vanity press? Nah. How about “reality press”?

Unless writers can be kept ignorant of the nuts and bolts of true self-publishing (as opposed to the pseudo self-publishing rip-off conglomerate that masquerades as numerous small independents) – self publishing is the future.

Then there’s this blog you’re reading, in which I’m giving you the best encouragement and advice about writing that I possibly can, just for the joy of possibly helping someone. That’s sort of a random act of kindness, you might say… Assuming my views are worthwhile rather than counterproductive, a debatable issue in light of my disagreement with many of the traditional writing tips of the how-to fiction writing world.

Then there’s the writing down of three good things that happen every day. That seems to involve writing – if you take it literally, as my son insists you should.  (Rather than just thinking of three things, you know?)

Here’s just a thought on that. My strong belief in God as well as my background in Christian Fundamentalism (the “fundamentalism” part of which I’ve thrown over) has given me a long tradition of thanking God profusely for most every good little or big thing that has happened to me. This habit, for reasons that could be debated endlessly, has never seemed to affect my happiness one way or the other. I’m sure it was my fault. But writing down three good things every day without putting them into any religious context has helped. Dunno why the difference.

OK, I’m a foolish Christian. What’s new?

The bottom line is this: if you want to be happy and you’re one of the lucky few who can put two sentences together and feel great about it, you owe it to yourself to keep plugging away at your story and your blog. You’ll be happier.

Don’t let up for anything short of an asteroid. Not even a hemorrhoid.


Don’t worry whether or not you’ve got readers in copious quantities, or a boatload of native talent dripping from your fingers. Just keep putting part of yourself into the physical world of words on paper (or robo paper, whatever). There is inherent value in doing what we’re doing, regardless of ears (ear-regardless? No such word. Hello?)

Anyway, stop checking your email and surfing the net. Get back to your story, umkay?

Be happy, dammit!

“Do it now! Get to da Choppa!”

M. Talmage Moorehead

For a FREE download of my new e-book, Writing Meaningful Page-Turners, opt into my list: Click HereThe book takes a look at why we are more than storytellers, and how lucky we are to be inside the most influential group on Earth. The last chapter talks about how to meet a viewpoint character who will add a new dimension of meaning and fun to your life. Yes, I’m talking about Johanna Fujiwara! My Hapa Girl protagonist. If you haven’t met someone like her in your own writing, you have a wonderful experience coming!

Click Here for a FREE download of Writing Meaningful Page-Turners.

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