Join me today in consoling and appreciating author Jon Ford (Jon Ford – Author.) His SPFBO7 entry joined 289 other non-finalists a while back, although The Critiquing Chemist did say Hunters: The Ballad of the Songbird “was hard to put down” adding that “Ford creates complex dimensionality … while still leaving enough mystery to keep the reader intrigued.”
I asked Jon about his writing and discovered that he is the second thorough plotter to participant in my survey of misbehaving secondary characters. You’d think anyone as careful as him wouldn’t be surprised by his own creations, but, well, read on…
Hi everyone, I’m Jon and I’m a compulsive plotter.
It’s a conversation I’ve had with many other writers, are we ‘Plotters’ (i.e. we meticulously plot our books to death!) or ‘Pantsers’ (I.e. we just write the book letting it unfold onto the page!)
I’m the former.
I have a huge spreadsheet (the ‘Spreadsheet of Doom’) where every book, every chapter and every character arc of my Songbird saga is laid out. Which is why it was surprising when a few characters decided – of their own accord! – that their role in the story simply wasn’t enough.
I have two types of these characters…
‘Supporting’ characters and ‘background’ characters.
To give you a couple of examples from HUNTERS.
I have a huge [cast] of characters. In that respect the book is kind of Game of Thrones-esque. Two of those characters are Lyssa Balthazaar (a Vampyrii, head of House Balthazaar) and Zarra Anderson (a bounty hunter). Both of these characters had sort of sidekick characters, both of whom demanded bigger roles than I originally conceived.
Lyssa’s lieutenant is her niece and best friend, Mercy balthazaar (that’s not a typo! Read HUNTERS to find out why it’s not capitalized!). I started writing Mercy as this bright and warm character, she had a real enthusiasm for the world. I fell in love with her. So much so, that I found myself wanting to write her in scenes that originally had been Lyssa’s.
For example, there’s a chapter where Lyssa would have traveled to meet one of the other main characters in the saga. That meeting would have been a serious meeting of peers, but I changed my immaculately plotted arc to let Mercy take that trip instead. The dynamic of that chapter plays out very differently now while also adding a really interesting sub plot to Lyssa’s arc. She and this character now don’t get to meet until book 2.
Another example is Zarra’s partner, Becka. When you first meet Zarra, she’s chasing down a rogue monster in the streets of Havana. Becka is the voice in her ear, giving advice. She’s the tech-girl behind their little bounty hunting operation and the two have this fun dynamic. Like bickering sisters. Texan born Zarra is older and more experienced, where Becka is a young Brit. The banterous interplay was such fun to write. Becka’s role is significantly expanded for Book 2 in the series (BLOOD TO EARTH – coming soon!) because I just simply wanted to write her more!
Moving on to the ‘background’ type of character that forced a bigger role, this was slightly different. I won’t spoil anything here, but the first one was a tiny background character in an early chapter of HUNTERS. This one grew in story significance purely because of something one of my Beta Readers said about her. The character now recurs in book 2 with a surprising new direction.
There’s also an entirely new unplanned character in book 2, which came about when I really enjoyed writing a certain chapter in book 1 and decided it was something I really wanted to explore more.