Note: As always, I'm going to try to avoid any spoilers for the White Stone series, but something may slip out in the telling. You've been warned. :)
Last week, I wrote a post about losing control of your characters, and how the unexpected turn of the romantic subplot in Wide Horizons was the best thing that could've happened to the story. Today, I want to take that same idea of losing control of your characters and learn the exact opposite lesson.
(Yes, this may cause some advice whiplash. But let's be honest: writing is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.)
Pazur is one of the minor characters in White Stone, and originally, I had the thought he was setting up to be a potential love interest, maybe to add a third side of a love triangle to the series (this was in early 2012, somewhat before my more recent vitriolic hatred of love triangles). When presented with the idea, both he and Kalima were okay with it. But then Pazur got cocky. This was how the conversation with him went (as recalled on that day's Facebook post):
I lost that argument with Pazur, not at all unlike I had lost arguments with plenty of characters before and since. But in this case, letting Pazur do as he wished was not the right choice for the characters or the story. It led to a very out-of-place assault scene that ultimately had no bearing on any of the characters' arcs or personalities, had no tie to plot or theme, and was merely a touch of drama for the sake of a touch of drama.
(For the record, I was right. Kalima did not take kindly to Pazur's advances, and he came out of it worse than her. There was choking involved.)
And so, in revision, that was the first scene to go.
In my writing experience, a character doing something unexpected or unplanned has usually been a good thing. They prove themselves to be more real and rounded than I might've first realized, and they usually have the right solution to a problem I didn't even know the story was facing. But sometimes, a character taking charge is not a good thing. And what are you supposed to do when a character does something that derails things in all the wrong ways?
You take them by the throat and explain to them that they'd better do as they're told.
If they don't, you cut them from the story.
Cutting him completely wasn't the answer for Pazur (after all, he does still show up in the story), but in the next draft of White Stone, his scenes were greatly reduced, his relationship with Kalima slashed at the knees. I knew by then that he wasn't going to behave himself if given the liberty of making his own decisions, so I stripped him of the status of potential love interest.
Sorry, Pazur. Everyone has to obey the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Looking back on that decision, I realize that demoting Pazur from potential love interest to minor side character is what opened up the possibility of the romantic subplot that actually occurs in Wide Horizons, and you know, if you read last week's post, that was the best kind of character takeover.
So, ultimately, I guess I have to credit Pazur's off-the-rails, and ultimately cut, attempt at controlling the story for a moment where another character did take control of the story in a way that mattered to the story and character arcs.
But it did take a long time to rein him back in.
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