How Misbehaving Characters Can Enrich Your Story
Today, I wanted to talk about misbehaving characters. You know, those men and women who you spent hours meticulously creating interesting quirks, detailed backstories and physical features that scream, “My readers will love you!”
You’ve poured your heart and soul into knowing every detail of their life, their relationships, family dynamics, flaws, fears and accomplishments. But then, you start to write and everything falls apart because, guess what? They don’t like the way the plot is going or how they don’t interact with other characters the way you expected them to. They’re like, “I don’t like the way you’re driving! Pull over and give me the wheel!”
It sounds insane, doesn’t it? I mean, how can a fictional character dictate how a flesh and blood author writes a story? It’s simple, really. If you’ve done your job creating well-developed 3-D characters, they can take on a life of their own.
And as weird as it may seem, this sort of disruption is exciting to me. I feel like Dr Frankenstein. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Because I know I’m on the right track.
So, what do you do when a character (good or bad) doesn’t work well with others?
Don’t give up on them if you’re only a few scenes into the story. Give them time, write a few chapters and see if they evolve. They might surprise you.
Don’t chuck them in the Do-Not-Resuscitate category. If you’ve spent a significant amount of time and labor developing these characters, you may want to save them for other stories that they may work well in.
Think about their goals, desires, and personality. Are their behaviors in line with their intentions? If not, it could be a result of unclear motivations. To make sure their actions are consistent, think about how you can better understand them and incorporate them into the story more coherently.
And don’t lay all the blame on the character. The trouble may be with your plot. Maybe the misbehaving character is pointing a finger at an aspect of the story that was previously overlooked or underdeveloped. Assess whether incorporating their disruptive actions can enrich the plot, deepen conflicts, or introduce new narrative possibilities. Be open to revising your initial plans to accommodate this new direction.
If the disruptive character’s actions are inconsistent with the intended character arc, consider realigning their arc to incorporate their disruptive nature. Explore how their behavior can lead to growth, redemption, or transformation. By adapting their character arc, you can integrate their disruptive tendencies into a meaningful and satisfying narrative progression.
Also, allow the misbehaving character’s actions to have consequences within the story. Characters disrupting the plot isn’t always a bad thing. It can create conflicts, setbacks, or obstacles for themselves and others. Think about how these consequences might ripple through the story and affect other characters. This can result in compelling story developments and character dynamics.
And don’t forget there’s always room for these characters to grow. They might develop into the main character of their own story. That happens to me frequently. So don’t be afraid to use the disruptive character’s actions as a catalyst for their own development and growth. Assess and determine if and how their disruptive tendencies might stem from internal conflicts, fears, or unresolved issues. This will allow them to confront these aspects of themselves, leading to personal growth and a resolution of their disruptive behavior.
Encourage the misbehaving character to have interesting conversations and conflicts with other characters. In these interactions, they can express their concerns, motivations, or objections, which helps everyone understand why they’re being disruptive.
Lastly, instead of resisting the mayhem caused by the misbehaving character outright, consider embracing it as an opportunity for organic storytelling. Allow the disruptive character to take the narrative in a new direction and see where it leads. Sometimes, the unexpected can inject freshness and excitement into the plot.
One of my favorite misbehaving characters of all times is from the hit medical drama House which aired for eight seasons on the Fox Network. The television show revolved around the remarkable antics of Dr. Gregory House and his refusal to observe the accepted protocols of the medical field and hospital. His daring and rebellious attitude added suspense, making for an exciting drama that I love to watch.
House’s unruly tendencies introduced an element of unpredictability into the storyline. His unorthodox approaches to medical cases, disregard for rules, and abrasive personality created tension and kept viewers guessing about what he will do next.
His rebellious tendencies often led to conflicts with his colleagues, hospital administrators, and even patients. These clashes of personalities and opposing viewpoints generated dramatic and intense moments that drove the plot forward.
Despite his bad behavior, House possessed exceptional diagnostic skills. His unconventional thinking and willingness to challenge established norms enabled him to solve complex medical mysteries that others couldn’t. This aspect of his character kept viewers engaged as they eagerly awaited the resolution of each case.
House, oh House! That straightforward, insensitive genius was like a puzzle wrapped in a riddle, topped with a thick layer of sarcasm and resentment. As the series unfolded, viewers got a front-row seat to the mess that was his flawed and complex personality. The plot line dove deep into his troubled past, his inner demons, and the twisted reasons behind his behavior. This classic, dry-witted INTJ character rarely interacted positively with the other characters in the series, but there was a whole galaxy of depth and surprises lurking beneath his snarky exterior. It was like discovering a secret treasure trove of character development that kept us hooked and hungry for more.
House frequently found himself in sticky situations that forced us to question our own moral compasses. His controversial methods left audiences wondering what is ethically right as well as where the bounds of medical practice should lie. We were challenged to consider the greater good against personal desires and rights.
House’s horrible people skills and “Everybody lies” belief, provided comic relief throughout the series. His clever one-liners and banter inject a lighter tone into the otherwise serious medical cases, making the plot more enjoyable and entertaining.
So, the next time you’re ready to kick your misbehaving character out on the street, remember. Sometimes the most entertaining stories emerge from unexpected disruptions. Embrace the challenge, explore the possibilities, and find creative ways to incorporate the disruptive character into the narrative. By doing so, you may discover a richer and more compelling story that surpasses your initial vision.