Characters which come to life. (Working on the Second Draft of The Fate of Pryde)

For the last week, I’ve been working on my “scroll” of the plotline and have pretty much mapped out the changes in the first draft—for now.

Here’s my question. Have you ever created a character whom you thought was relatively minor? He or she has appeared here and there in the story and even has had some speaking lines.

Then, suddenly, that character decides to take over? That’s what’s been happening with Professor Henry Callan this past week. Until now, he’s appeared in the second chapter and a few subsequent ones. Now he wants a much bigger part. What do you do?

Originally, the professor was intended to be a character who linked several others. Like friends on Facebook, he was a mutual friend of two of the main characters and so could bring the major players together. But now he wants more—a lot more.

Also, in going through the manuscript, I noticed that the professor’s nature seemed quite different at the beginning than at the end. He had changed. For me, that is always a clue that the character may be far more important than I originally suspected. The stock character who simply moves the furniture [or people from A to B] doesn’t need much attention. But when he changes, maybe that’s a sign that he has a lot more to say and do.

When I started looking into this change, I made a few discoveries. He’s much more than just a functionary. In fact he is the star of a minor plot. And if so, he needs to be developed. The first question I ask is—what is the purpose of that plot and how does this character carry out that purpose?

I always seem to need three plot lines:

1] To tell the main story
2] To comment upon or make the main plot more complex—or even resolve the first.
3] I always hope that the third will somehow contribute to the bringing together of the first and second plots.

In this story, Alexander Wainwright, protagonist of the Remembrance Trilogy and Britain’s finest landscape painter, is head to head with his new patron, Jonathan Pryde, who offers Alex a commission to work in stained glass. The second plot is about Alex’s friend, Peter Cummings, the winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize and his mother, Gloria, trapped in an home for the aged and struggling to get free.

As I think about Henry Callan, professor of philosophy, I think how can he grow into a role which will be relevant to the other two plots? Given the his feisty nature, I think it will be fun to make him grow into a new role.

And so, I’ve gone back to the drawing board and written down everything I can think about this character. I’ve gone through my “scroll” and found a few places where I should add a chapter or two. In fact, Professor Henry Callan has become so powerful that he has demanded a twin brother—and he will have one! Ronald Callan was “born” yesterday and is a professor of mathematics. Room to develop the idea of the good/evil twin dichotomy? Maybe so. A good week in the writing world.


About Mary E. Martin

Mary E. Martin grew up in Toronto, Canada. After earning an Honors Degree in History at the University of Toronto, she graduated with her law degree from Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. In 1973, she was called to the Bar of Ontario and began the general practice of law in Toronto, with emphasis on real estate, wills and estates and elder-care law. This law practice of more than 30 years was a great inspiration for The Osgoode Trilogy ("Conduct in Question," "Final Paradox" and "A Trial of One.") Her fourth novel, “The Drawing Lesson,” will be the first in the next trilogy, provisionally entitled “The Trilogy of Rmembrance.” She is also a photographer particularly with respect to her travels. She has had two commercial photography shows. Married in 1973, she and her husband live in Toronto. They have three adult children.
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6 Responses to Characters which come to life. (Working on the Second Draft of The Fate of Pryde)

  1. sonia says:

    Lol yes I have. My novel wip, the main character has a brother who I thought was going to be very very minor is turning into a decent secondary character.

  2. Sonia says:

    Yeah it is amazing. But, personally, I think it is a good thing when characters come to life like that

    • Absolutely. That they all could be like that! Once I wrote about a man on a train headed for Venice who had just met a woman. Actually it was a very early draft of what much later became “The Drawing Lesson.” But he was definitely the wrong guy for her. And so, he got booted off.

  3. sonia says:

    Oh I wish. Did booting him off make you rewrie the story? The characters in my short story aren’t alive like that. Wish they were – writing it would be easier. Don’t know if it is because it is so short and I’ve spent maybe a week with them.

    • Ha! Actually I just deleted him from the ms rather than plotting his demise on the train. What you say is very true. It really takes me a long time to get to know the characters, so hang in there with them. They’ll speak when they’re ready.

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