Lynn Voedisch: Open the Door and Let Me In
There’s a strange phenomenon that happens to some fiction writers that seems impossible to explain to rational-minded outliners.
That’s the arrival of an unexpected and unplanned character. If you write seat-of-the-pants like I do, this odd happening can occur more times than you expect.
My most fully formed invasive character showed up in Soundrise, my latest novel on The Story Plant. My protagonist, Derek Nilsson, is trying to get out of his apartment building vestibule with a large parcel in his arms. He’s running late in getting to the post office and can’t get past a large gorilla of a man who’s leaning over, reading the names on the apartment buzzer pad. After a couple “excuse me”s and “could you step away from the door, please”s, Derek is ready to concede defeat.
Then the intruder turns around and says with a slight Swedish accent that he’s looking for Derek Nilsson, his cousin. And now he has barged into my novel for good. I suddenly realized a lot about this character, Boone Sanderson, that is larger than life. He shares a lot of history with Derek and just might be the bodyguard that Derek needs for all the adventures he’s going to take.
So I took Boone in, brought him up to Derek’s apartment (parcel now abandoned) and discovered Boone’s past, his ability to talk like Texas good old boy, His bottomless search for beer, and his affection for his young cousin.
Soon Boone is whisking away to Milwaukee, where Derek encounters some menacing Egyptians who are onto his search for a secret computer code. Boone protects Derek there and goes on to ask Derek’s driver and bodyguard on his fraught trip to New Mexico, where another computer geek has tracked the source of his code. The Egyptians were waiting for him there too.
When I got feedback on the completed Soundrise, many people told me that Boone was their favorite character—and I hadn’t planned on him even being there!
How do you explain such serendipity? Well, you don’t. It’s all part of the creative process.
There was another case like this in my first novel, which I self-published—Excited Light. A rumple herbalist and Tarot card reader shows up at the door of my protagonist, Allegra Bellini, and wants to read her fortune. The protagonist is warned to stay away from a lover who wants to try to kill her. And the occult lady leaves some herbs to help the shocked Allegra.
Sure the book could have gone on fine without the Tarot lady, but she added a sense of creepiness to the story that helped when Allegra next meets with her paramour.
Now I fully expect characters to pop into my novels. Most of them are secondary and not central to the plot, but they all provide some kind of added dimension to the story.
I once read an interview with Janet Evanovich (she of the funny mysteries) and they asked her if she ever had any unwanted guests enter her copy. “No way!” she exclaimed and wanted to know who was supposed to be in control of the novel. The writer, of course. She didn’t believe in the mystical and unusual way some writers get their stories together.
As I struggle with my next novel, I’ve seen a character creep in who is much more evil than I expected. Without my planning it, she’s taking the subplot in a shattering new direction. So, I’ve hit the pause button while I figure out what to do with her. But I’ll get at it with a few controlling changes of my own.
But all hail to Boone who really worked some magic into my urban fantasy, Soundrise. I’ll let characters like him in anytime.
About the Author...
Lynn Voedisch writes contemporary fantasy like no one else. Technorati called The God's Wife, "a feast of romance and excitement, keeping the reader in its thrall with suspense," and Windy City Reviews said of Dateline: Atlantis, "Voedisch is able to project a variety of places and times, a blend of people with different ages, genders, educational levels and interests, and miraculously connect the dots for a greater good."