Whether reader or writer, there will always be those characters that stick in your head for a long, long time. They’re the ones that randomly pop into your head as you’re going about your daily business, and demand attention. As a reader, they make you wonder what could possibly be happening to them right this minute. As a writer, they nag you until you give them some more page time.
I’ve found this a lot with some of the things I’ve written. There are some characters that just refuse to go away, even if you’ve tried to kill them off. There are characters who demand to pop up in something else, or who I just keep returning to. One of the major things that’s caused this for me has been my sci-fi, post-apocalyptic trilogy. The story starts off with Jake, a bit of a dickhead, who gets dragged to a bunker by his best friend Chuck when a nuclear attack becomes imminent. I originally wrote it for NaNoWriMo, when I got bit by the zombie virus. But then more things kept popping up. I ended up doing a sequel, where Jake and co head back to Cardiff to try to find their family. They come across others, and end up sitting on a hill as the world explodes. Again.
For a while before writing the sequel, I had been playing around with the idea of The Black Cat – a superhero type character who fights against an evil organisation. I was finding it difficult to start it, and then, well, it just seemed to fit perfectly as the third book in the trilogy. Kitty is infected by the same thing that affects Jake and his friends near the end of the first book, but she’s slightly different. Whereas most people experience one symptom, she experiences a few, and after making her way home, ends up trying to help others who are infected. As I was writing it, different aspects fell into place, and I ended up having a lot of fun working in some of the basic ideas from the previous two books.
But that wasn’t the end.
The whole set-up just kept popping back into my head, reminding me there was so much more to this world than the characters explored in the three novels. I’ve lost count of how many short stories I’ve written based on this, focusing in part of the infected characters, jumping into the future to find that organisation hasn’t quite been destroyed…and new ideas for this just keep coming all the time. The first three books need some work, but I’ve always found that short stories can really help in hashing out ideas for overall novels, for exploring characters and concepts, even if some of the ones written don’t make it into the main novel.
Similarly, I’ve had characters who refuse to let go. One novel I did a while ago was about a band who makes it big, and the female journalist who almost discovers them. (It’s a romance – of course she ends up dating the lead singer.) As a teenager, I used to write stories for me and my friends, and bands usually played a big role in them. One of these popped up again in my head a while back, and suddenly I had the missing link that meant the original stuff never worked. Blending the two together, I’m currently writing a sequel based on another small band, who get taken on tour with the original band. And I’m having more fun writing it than I did as a teenager, maybe because I already have a small part of the cast formed before starting the rewrite.
So what about you? Any characters – from your own work or others – who just won’t leave you alone?