IAM15 Guest Post…Writing Problem Characters

IAM 2015 - TopperAnyone who has been around Aside from Writing before may well recognise today’s guest author – Hazel West – from her visits to the blog in previous Indie Author Month events, or from our review of her novel On a Foreign Field (you can link to Hazel’s other features on the blog here).

So, we’re very happy to welcome back our regular visitor and see what she has to share about writing ‘problem’ characters. A little bit of Writing 101 for you today, along with meeting a lovely author.

Plus, as it’s the fourth of July, we thought it only proper that an American author take the centre stage today 🙂


Writing Problem Characters

If you have not encountered a character who has given you problems at least once, then chances are you aren’t actually a writer. Something I always tell writers who are starting out is that characters are people too. This helps to form realistic characters but it also means they can take on a life of their own, and usually to the chagrin of the writer. These problems can either manifest as characters being unwilling to cooperate with you, refusing to do what you want them to, or even becoming completely different characters all together. I’ve had villains decide they were more anti-heroes by the time I get to the end of a first draft and have to go back and rewrite everything to accommodate their newfound generosity. It can definitely be troubling, but here are some tips to make dealing with problem characters easier.

First off, another thing I tell new writers is to just listen to your characters, because, yes, they do talk to you; no, you aren’t going crazy even though you hear those voices in your head when you’re trying to sleep at night. Usually if you just listen to your characters and let them run the story, even if it’s not anything like how you imagined it starting out, things should go smoothly. You can’t write characters out of character and expect your process to go well.

Sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that. If your character has decided they are not going to be the person you thought they were, they you may have quite a bit of decision making to do and things to figure out. In this case, you may—and likely will—have to change parts of the story itself to fit their new personality. If you haven’t realized it yet, characters are divas, and you do have to cater to them if you want your story to go well. Otherwise, they have a way of sabotaging stories if they don’t get their way. If your baddie decides to go good, you might have to create another villain to keep the story going, otherwise your readers will feel cheated and all thanks to your ex-baddie’s change of heart. Villains seem to be some of the most problematic characters to write. If they’re not leaving the dark side, they refuse to tell you their plans and why they are doing what they’re doing, which makes fun many long frustrating hours of trying to squeeze information from them all while attempting to construct a plot without any real reason behind it. Infuriating. Unfortunately, this is just one of those things that has to be worked out in time. There are really no good ways to get your villain to talk, although you can always try torture if you wish.

I have also found names to be a huge factor in character personalities. If it turns out a name really doesn’t fit the character, you may have a very hard time writing them and getting their voice correct. I usually play with names and spellings a long time before I start writing a book. I know there were certain times where I have had a hard time writing a character but after changing their name, it was super easy. Just another one of those weird tips that writers pick up.

Everyone has problem characters, it’s impossible not to, but don’t let it stop your writing process! I hope these tips might help a bit, or you might find other things that will help you more. Let me know some of your tips for wrangling those characters who just don’t want to cooperate.


bloodtiescover copy In an Ireland that mixes high kings, faeries, and modern warriors who drive fast cars, Ciran, a descendant from the famous warrior Fionn Mac Cool, bands together with a company of young warriors to go on a quest to recover their missing family members who were captured on patrol by the Goblins during a shaky peace between the two kingdoms. Ciran and his companions must figure out not only how they are going to rescue the prisoners, but how they are going to complete their mission without killing each other. This first book in the new urban fantasy series by Hazel West is a story of brotherhood and friendship against all odds, that mixes the ancient Irish legends with a modern setting for an action-packed read.

(Coming Fall 2015)

Want to know more? Check out the links!

Hazel West lives in Florida and took up writing mostly as an excuse to stay out of the heat. Apart from being an Indie author, she also enjoys reading, drawing, drinking coffee, and knitting and crochet. Hazel is also a lover of all this historical and a good deal of folklore and mythology and enjoys seeing how those things can be written into stories. She currently shares her living space with a hedgehog named Horatio.

Hazel B West

Hazel B West

Blog: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com

Tales From a Modern Bard (short stories/fiction): http://talesfromamodernbard.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/artfulscribbler

Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/artfulscribbler/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5289626.Hazel_B_West

You can find all my books here: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com/2013/03/purchase-links.html

2 thoughts on “IAM15 Guest Post…Writing Problem Characters

  1. Hi, Hazel,

    Thanks for posting and corroborating my madness: “…listen to your characters, because, yes, they do talk to you; no, you aren’t going crazy even though you hear those voices in your head when you’re trying to sleep at night.” I got woken up this morning at 2 AM (not that unusual, for me) and had to go write it all down just to shut them all up. Truly.

    Best to you,


    • That’s a regular occurrence to me. I actually know some authors who don’t have this problem, who actually have characters who cooperate, which is amazing! It’s certainly a blessing and a curse to have such eager characters 😉

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