Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 28, 2011

Character “Crushes”

Sometimes when you’re reading, a character grabs you. Not the main character, but a secondary one. You yearn to know more about him, and eagerly look forward to when he reappears in the story. You get impatient when he doesn’t show up, and want to shake the protagonist when they don’t listen to the obviously sound advice of this character.

You have a character “crush.”

I wonder if we the reader fell in love with this secondary character because the author had also been the victim of a character crush?

Sometimes a character waltzes in, refuses to do what you want, and refuses to leave. I once had a throwaway character stick around for six books, marry the protagonist, and father her children. It happens.

As a writer, a character crush is dangerous. It makes us lose our way, takes us to places we had no intention of going, and drops us off in the middle of nowhere with no map or cell phone. Frustrating, yes. A little scary, yes (after all we’ve just been hijacked by an imaginary person). However, this unexpected journey can also be amazing, fun, and challenging.

So, what can you do when you fall in love with a character who is not your main character? Cold showers, binge eating, and cutting off communication don’t work—it’s hard to break up with someone who lives in your head. But you might try these:

1. Consider if that character should really be the protagonist. Maybe he’s trying to tell you something isn’t right with the way things are.

2. Consider if you could tell the story from that character’s POV. Like Nick in The Great Gatsby, could this character bring a more powerful resonance to the telling of the story?

3. Consider if the story itself might need to be scrapped. While related to #1, it differs in that you are not trying to revise the existing story to accommodate a new protagonist, you are considering if the story itself is worth telling. Perhaps this character has a completely different story to share.

4. Consider shelving that character for a future story and finding a more well-behaved character for your present story.

5. Consider letting the character have his own way with this story, and see where he takes you. This only works if you are not on a deadline and really enjoy revising—because you will have a lot of revising to do if you write the entire story and then go back and figure the new structure, etc., out afterwards.

Do you have any other suggestions to turn these crushes into advantages rather than obstacles to overcome?


Responses

  1. Great article…character crush has happened to me. thanks for showing me how to deal with it. Sometimes I let them help the MC shine perhaps by being a comic sidekick or to reveal things or let them show us a side of humanity that is vulnerable so we do love them too, as the MC does. Its hard to let go of a crush!

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  2. I had a character crush with Dark Side of the Moon. Fascination and amusement is more like it – Becky, the 2ndary character. Like I, she had a weakness for Mylar balloons, and because I like balloons so much, I got a kick out of writing scenes about Becky and her balloons. When she meets the monster and survives the encounter, she hies to a gift shop and goes on a balloon shopping spree.

    I am trying to behave myself with my current work in progress.
    Barbara

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  3. A character crush can make the author realize the protagonist needs to come alive more. Or, if the character has been added to perk up a sagging middle, it’s serving an important function and needs to stay in the book (as long as the character relates to the plot). Gerri George

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  4. I had a bully of a secondary character who took over my book Bulb-head. I wound up rewriting the book alternating chapters from the point of view of the bullied boy and the bully. I think it made for a much richer story.

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