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?