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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Loving A Character Too Much

Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery, Victory Tales Press, Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press, imprints of Prairie Rose Publications. She welcomes you to her website at


Have you ever created a character you just fell in love with—and then you couldn’t get him out of your head even after you finished his story? Well, welcome to my world.
When I wrote Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride, it was not intended to have a sequel, nor was it supposed to be the beginning of a family saga.

 I’ve mentioned before that I couldn’t get Banjo off my mind. He was the street-wise teenager, raised by whores who was not only courageous enough to go up against the villain to save Lola with nothing more than an ice crusher, but he was also inventive and clever. So I gave him his own story in For Love of Banjo

You’d think that would be enough and I could let him go, but nope, I couldn’t shake the magic of Banjo. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why.

In my WIP for the Christmas anthology at Prairie Rose Publishing, I decided to tell the story of the widow, Penelope Thoroughgood. Now maybe you don’t know who she is. Banjo mentioned her in his story. He spent the night with her and said she had taught him some important things. Without besmirching Penelope’s good name I had to figure out how I was going to accomplish that feat. I also had a character in my story, Unexpected Blessings, for the summer anthology Lassoing A Bride 

and her name was Lucille Thoroughgood. Now I have plans for Lucille in a future story, but I had to get her age young enough for this future story and how did the widow Thoroughgood end up with a child with the same last name some ten years or so into the future? Oh, the brainstorming that took place.

But I wanted to get back to the original topic which is characters we can’t shake. Banjo is one of those characters for me. He has shown up in every single Wilding story I’ve written. Well, it really got out of hand with Penelope’s story. He is not supposed to be the main character. Yet, he kept showing up in all his magical, handsome glory trying to nudge his way into first place. I had to restart the Christmas story three times before I was able to subdue the irrepressible Banjo Wilding.

Have you ever had that happen to you? What did you do? 


  1. Oh, Sarah, I feel your pain. What is it with some of these characters? (Gotta admit, though: Banjo is one of those hunky heroes nobody wants to see ride into the sunset. ;-) )

    Secondary characters constantly try to take over my manuscripts. To get rid of them (temporarily), I have to promise them their own stories. Well, word gets around, leading to more characters refusing to leave the stage with any degree of grace (or common sense) until I promise them their own stories, too. Pretty soon, everybody's getting into the act, including villains. By all rights, most of the villains should end up shuffling off this mortal coil, but somehow they manage to sneak right on through the end of the story, still breathing.

    This is totally out of hand. I could end up paying off extortionists of my own making forever. Then again, I'm not sure that would be such a bad thing. ;-)

    So... Banjo will be in your Christmas story for this year, yes? :-)

  2. Kathleen, I laughed my way through your comment, but all the while feeling a certain kinship with you about these characters who refuse to get out of the spotlight.
    Banjo is in the Christmas story for PRP. He has some explaining to do about "that night with the Widow Thoroughgood." The hero is jealous and makes a misstep--as heroes often do. Banjo kept wanting to be the hero in this story. Finally, on the third attempt, I wrote the story from Gil's point of view. It was the only way I could make Banjo back off.
    I see you've made a bunch of promises you may not be able to keep. It's good to know I'm not alone in this secondary character dilemma.
    Villains making repeat visits is very interesting. I've killed off my villains in my westerns, but I did bring back a villain in a paranormal trilogy. Once, I saw an author bring back a villain and give him redemption. I liked it, too.
    Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy day to comment on my blog, Kathleen. I loved your commentary.

  3. Sarah,
    As an actor/ performer since the age of 2 1/2 there are so many people running around it my head, not to mention all the books and stories, there hasn't been one who has come to the forefront. Of course now that I have said this one or two will probably start shouting at me. (Sigh)
    I love Banjo and the stories that he is bringing to life. We, the readers, are the lucky recipients of his insistance. For that I thank him, but he could take a nap once in a while to let you rest. Thanks for a fun post. Doris

    1. So you were (or are) an actor, Doris? How very unique. Once I applied for an audition at The Little Theater for the play, "Red Hot Lover" back in the day. I never got a call-back, but my husband got a job as set director and later, an offer for the main roll in a play--and he never applied for either job or auditioned. So much for my acting career. LOL
      Thank you for liking Banjo. I doubt he will take a nap. He never rests, but he's had his moment as the lead on the stage, and now he needs to just relax a bit. He gets into my head and refuses to leave. I think that means I need to up my game with my heroes. They have to be the absolute best--and unique.
      Are you submitting to the Halloween and/or the Christmas anthologies?
      Thank you so much for popping in today, Doris.

  4. Oh, Sarah, I feel your pain...or joy. I've started, I don't know how many series with the thought "this will be a stand alone novel." Only to have a secondary character inform me, I am once again mistaken. In between, revising manuscripts to submit to PRP, I started a series that will follow a Wyoming family through many generations. I planned on 4 books, I'm now up to eight with a spin off. But I love going back to their ranch (which happens to be just down the road, so I can literally drive there for inspiration) but I love visiting this family. They're all a bunch of nuts, but some are based on my ancestors so that makes sense. God willing and the snow don't fall too heavy, I hope to have the first in this series out to the public in the spring.

    Can't wait to read your Christmas story, Sarah. Sounds like your people will have many snow drifts to cross before reaching a silent night. :)

    1. What is the name of your series, Kirsten? Are these novels, or short stories? It's nice that the ranch, which is your inspiration, just down the road.
      There's probably a bit of family history in most of our work. How can we not be influenced by our predecessors? You're lucky in that you live in Wyoming. I've been there, but I have to research everything. Too bad westerns don't take place in North Carolina or Pennsylvania. I can't imagine how great it would be to write about places where I have lived. Funny, I did live in Nebraska and Texas and I've never written about either place.
      Thank you for coming by and commenting on my blog. By the way, I like to read about nutty characters.

    2. Sarah,

      The first hero I ever put to paper took me 25+ years to let him go, and he's still waiting for a sequel. I have another hero's story written, but I haven't reached the submission stage yet, even though this hero periodically tells me he doesn't want to wait 25 years for his story to be read. (Darn those nagging characters)

      *sigh* It think it's a reverse 'failure to launch' scenario. I'm the one standing in the way of the launching. 0_o

      So, yes, I understand exactly what you're saying about liking a character so much that it's too much at times.

    3. 25 years? Mercy, Kate, I think it's time to write his story.
      I gave Banjo his own story right after I finished Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride where he was introduced. Now he just wants to keep being the center of every story.
      I'm glad you "get me". Thank you so much for coming, especially after such a busy day.

  5. Great post, Sarah!
    I think you fight too hard. Just let these characters do what they want! We'll come visit you in the asylum. I would comment further, but I'm so exhausted from writing today, and all the characters in residence, then I must escape my computer and hope they don't follow.
    I'm intrigued, however, by your comment of an author redeeming a villain. I would never think to do that--I don't think I'd ever 'want' to do that, but what an interesting idea. :-)

  6. Kristy, I was fascinated about redeeming a villain, too. I don't think she's written it yet. It will be interesting to see how it's done.
    I do know what it's like to spend an exhausting day working, and then come home to more of the same, so I really appreciate that you came and left a comment. Thank you so much. Now go get a chilled drink and relax.