Construction Zone: Character Roles

I touched on this awhile ago, but since I’ve been re-plotting Her Private Chef scene-by-scene, it’s really hitting home. Holly’s advice is to just write out every scene as they come, even if they’re out of order, and not to go back and edit, but I find myself picking up on continuity issues between scenes as I write my one sentence for each that I just *have* to go back and fix before I can move on (because the fix will affect all the other scenes after). And a lot of that has to do with the character roles that I switched up earlier in the revision process (and you thought I was digressing again).


It’s not that I really changed my characters when I decided to switch them into different roles. They’re still the same “people” I originally wrote them as, I’m just highlighting a different facet of their personality – albeit a worse one. Thank goodness my cast is pretty limited. I basically have six characters to play with. In my first draft, there were eight, only one of whom was a “bad guy”. After my role reassignments, I have three who are at varying degrees of “villainy”…each casting suspicion on the others for their various activities (how’s that for some seriously vague plot revelations?). Jealousy is the main catalyst for two of the three characters.


Why did I reassign three characters to less-than-savory roles? Because in order to experience internal growth, Hannah needs to be hit with betrayals on more than one level. They push her out of her comfort zone by degrees – so far out that she has to figure out who she is once and for all and embrace that identity, or lose everything. She’s stubborn. I decided that just the one catalyst wasn’t a big enough push to realistically push her out of her shell.


This is one of the most valuable things I’m getting from this revision course. Because while I’m using this information to revise at the moment, I’m also using it to really consider my characters in the newWIP, and how they will or can help push my main characters out of whatever rut they’ve settled in, and into something better (as well as each other’s arms). I’ve been thinking a lot about the draft I have waiting to be revised after this one, wondering whether I’ll switch my characters up for that or not (it’s been sitting since Dec. – memory is fading).

Have you ever taken any “good” characters and made them “villains” in revisions? Or vice versa? Do you consciously make sure your secondary characters are earning their “stage time”?

6 comments on “Construction Zone: Character Roles

  1. Samantha Hunter

    Hey Jamie — I absolutely make sure secondaries earn their part in the book. There’s nothing in a book that should be filler, and secondaries should be every bit as important or interesting as the primaries, IMO.

    I haven’t changed heroes to villains, etc but I have made villains more complex, and in the current WIP, the current hero was a secondary in the first draft, but my editor didn’t think the original hero was working, so I got rid of him and brought this guy forward, revising him completely. And so far it has worked.

    I think you have to be open to revision all the time, right up to the end, though, like you, I tend to polish and tweak as I go, and I can’t “consciously” write out of order — the other day I wrote a scene, and then realized I needed to go back and write things before it, but at the time I wrote it, it felt like the next thing in line… so while it was “out of order” it wasn’t consciously so.

    Off to do it, but had to comment, because you make me think, as always. 🙂


  2. Dolly

    Yes, I always make sure my characters are earning their time. I haven’t necessarily turned my characters villany, but I am focusing on bringing out their depth, which means bringing out their bad points too.

  3. Erica

    Great post! I can’t wait to read it ;o) I try to make my characters have a lot of flaws, I’m still working on the bad guys. I have a lot to learn ;O)

  4. Jamie DeBree

    Holly calls that “flexible commitment” in revisions…committing to something but being willing to change if it becomes necessary down the road. That’s fascinating that you actually had to ditch the original hero, and bring up a second…I bet that felt really odd!

    Yeah, I think I was over thinking again. The exercise is to write the outline without really thinking about it, just letting the subconscious take over and lead. I have a really hard time doing that unless I’m just drafting “in the zone”. *sigh*

  5. Jamie DeBree

    Someone else was just blogging about that – K.M. Weiland at Word Play, I think. It was a good video blog that I just got around to…basically pointed out that our characters need a balance between flaws and “perfections”, otherwise they can be flat. Interesting stuff.

  6. Jamie DeBree

    Keep at it, Er! With as much study as you’re doing on those characters, you should know them inside and out pretty soon! 🙂