When characters take over plot

So, I started writing this paranormal story years ago (Clock Smyth). I’m not big into werewolves or vampires, so I sort of made up my own extrasensory ability. I don’t want to give it away, because that’s not the point of my post. 😉

Anyway, as I developed the story, I sort of ran out of gas. It’s sat idle for a very long time now. But, recently, the gears started grinding again. I like the idea so much, but there’s something about it that’s been bothering me. I kept coming back to this one secondary character that seemed to be dominating the plot, but wasn’t who or what I was really interested in.

It finally dawned on me that this particular character and thread were distracting me from what I really wanted to get to. You see, they were too paranormal for my paranormal story. What I wanted to write was a story about something crazy happening to a single character and how he reacts to a mind-bending new ability. I envisioned multiple episodes where this new ability cause both good things and bad. The possibilities are truly endless. However, what I ended up with was a story about two characters with paranormal abilities who end up chasing one another around to some unknown end. Cyclical, tunnel-visioned, and limiting.

So, I have to start over with the story, but I think it’ll be for the best. I’ll only be “throwing away” a couple thousand words. Been there, done that. Sometimes it’s right to let characters take over the story. It can be fun to see where they take you. But, if it draws you away from the plot you had intended, perhaps that character isn’t meant for that story. In that case, they’re getting in the way of what you’re really after. Maybe they need their own story, or maybe their details can be diluted out of one character and into less-dominant secondary characters. You should never be afraid of staying true to your vision, even if it means going back to the beginning.