Saturday, November 17, 2007

Out of character

What happens when your major character gets involved in a situation where you suspect he'd probably act one way, and yet in the interests of entertainment you force him to do the opposite?

I'm having a fine old time writing a series of scenes featuring Hal, but they're not in character. Without revealing too much, he gets caught up with a military type, and they're trying to escape from a hotel which is under siege. Now, I'd half expect Hal to hang back, let the other guy do the work, and then nick off at the first possible moment. Instead, he's loaded to the eyeballs with assorted weaponry and is going for it like Arnie on speed.

The humour comes about because he's hung all these grenades off his belt .. by their pins. Now and then he loses one, yells 'Grenade', and in the ensuing destruction he fires off a few random shots to 'get' the person attacking them.

Nobody gets hurt, but the destruction is more and more impressive at every turn, and it's as funny as hell to write. Not only is he single-handedly destroying this hotel, but his military offsider has no idea it's Hal causing the damage.

I have no idea where this is all going, or whether these scenes will ever make it into a finished Hal book, but right now this novel is Die Hard meets Lost meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Fun!

So, what do you do when your own characters run amuck? Do you straighten them out and tell them to behave, or do you write on and see where they take you? (This is where series books can be tricky, because you've already established the character. However, that's no excuse for keeping them in a straight jacket ... just look at how much some characters changed over the course of BtVS or Angel, for example.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


Jeremy Boland said...

maybe he has a reason for acting out of character that you haven't discovered yet?

Simon Haynes said...

Well, someone did just shoot up his hotel room, and he's always had a thing for guns. Therefore, I don't think it's a huge stretch for him to get carried away.

Jeremy Boland said...

it sounds like he maybe trying to play the big shot in front of the military offsider who has actual experience and training with weaponry. just a guess.

Simon Haynes said...

That's how it's been working out. Hal says he can't reveal much - you need to a level 8 security clearance just to know his name.
The other guy says he has a level 9-yellow clearance.
Hal says yes, but you need 8-red, and that's even higher. (Great opportunity to really bullshit his way though a series of more and more dangerous situations, getting carried along with no chance of backing out.)

For example, I saw him rocking up to this high level meeting and the others go .. who the hell is this? Now they're going to assume he's the guy they were expecting, and so he's involved in a top level briefing, giving his off-the-wall advice. (he's already impressed soldier boy with a couple of wacky tactics.)

Jeremy Boland said...

it sounds hilarious

Simon Haynes said...

The mistaken identity situation isn't all that original, but Hal's one of a kind and is sure to do something even I never expected.

I do work hard to balance hilarity with reality, though. I don't like silly humour, and my books are driven by the plot & characters, not by how many gags I can shovel in. At least, that's the intention.

N. G. Fainswift said...


I just so love reading blog posts like this... keeps me from getting any work done on my own writing... Grin.


PS: You sure Hal isn't related to Gaston La Gaffe? (To save you the trouble:

Simon Haynes said...

Re: Gaston.. wow, the artist's style looks similar to one of my faves, F. IbaƱez of Mortadelo y Filemon fame:

WordVixen said...

I dunno. I've always suspected that Hal is something of a... loose cannon. (Sorry, had to do it!)

Simon Haynes said...

Boom boom! *

* Which will only be funny to Brits. (See Basil Brush.)

Simon Haynes said...

Oh, all right. Here's a reference for the Boom boom reference ;-)