When a Take-Over is Emminent

I am in the midst of writing my fourth Dead Detective book and, while I don’t have a title I like enough yet to offer publicly, I am well into the book. As often happens, given all the characters I typically jam into a single book, there is a minor character who has grown in importance with each page I write and who seems determined to take over. I used to say that when this situation occurred, and the author found themselves not in full control of their character, it was subconscious creativity speaking and that a wise author let it happen.

Now, I am not so sure.

As I continue to write about good vs. evil, and the different forms these forces can take, I wonder about these minor characters of mine. Most of them emerge from obscurity because they are serving as some sort of metaphor or archetypal character in that fundamental battle of good vs. evil. They are the simple man speaking out for the truth or the battle-worn woman who only wants to return to hearth and family. And so far, these characters with minds of their own have mostly been on the side of the forces of good. But I find myself wondering what will happen the day that a character emerges who is pure evil hiding under a façade of likability. He could undermine my whole book and then where would I be? I be left high and dry with a useless outline and a bunch of once-pivotal characters relegated to second-rate.

On the other hand, the propensity of side characters to take over has served me well in the past — Casey Jones was actually a minor character in the third book of my first series, when I was still writing as Gallagher Gray. She appeared as a detective in Death of a Dream Maker, my favorite of the Hubbert & Lil mysteries. Casey ended up being so important and distinctive that I spun her off into her own series. Six books later, she is still going strong. So perhaps it is better after all to let these characters, the ones who are fighting so valiantly to live fuller lives, to muscle their way into the plot and be who they want to be after all?

6 thoughts on “When a Take-Over is Emminent”

  1. Usually I would say whip ’em into shape and don’t let him get too big for his britches… but maybe he’s important in some way only your subconscious knows so far.

    Hey, LOVE your new website!


  2. How did you get to the 4th “Dead Detective” & I haven’t even read the third one yet????
    My advice is twofold: read Joanne Greenberg’s story “That Bitch” (from the point of view of a character less than enchanted with his creator); let them muscle in and see where they take you. My hunch is the journey will be worth it.


  3. Heard the interview with you on Public last night as I was wending my way thru the mountains of VA back to my home (now) in WV. Realized I knew who you were! We lived across the street from your family in the early 70s. So glad to hear of your successful run in the writing world! Wish you many more sellout mysteries!


    1. hi Frank! There’s nothing like clinging to the sounds of the radio when you’re winding through those Virginia and West Virginia mountains. It’s the best time of all to listen to the soothing sounds of Frank Stasio’s voice. I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve been back to the old neighborhood, but you just would not believe how swank it has gotten. Did you live in the big house on the corner right across from our house? It’s been turned into a bed and breakfast and it took a direct hit from lightning about six months ago that took out the top floor. It is a beautiful house, though, and still standing. Good to see you here and thanks for the good wishes.


  4. I just finished reading Out Of Time. I love your writing style. Easy reading,I didn’t have to keep going back to figure out what character I was reading about as I often do with other authors. Casey Jones is now my favorite detective along with Kate Shugak by Dana Stabenow.
    Thank you,


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