Character wrangling is a term I put together when writing my guest post for Ronel Janse van Vuuren today. I was writing of the discovery I made when I started writing the Princelings series, that characters do what they want, things that can be completely unexpected.
I should warn there might be spoilers in today’s post. But then, they might also be teasers!
Pantsers have to wrangle
I don’t know if you have the same trouble if you plot your books thoroughly. I’m a pantser, so I often have little idea of how something is going to happen. I may know that I want there to be a scene in which they work out how Fred is going to survive without the backing of Castle Marsh’s funds, but I’m not actually sure of how it’ll work—the scene or the technical issue.
A more extreme example is that I wanted Neville (potentially a baddie), who looks like Dylan (a proven goodie in book 8) to be mixed up and something bad happen as a result. They look very similar, and first one character, then another talks to Dylan, when they are actually talking to Neville. But what would come of this? I was a bit stuck. In fact I had to add that scene after the beta readers had seen the book.
Let the characters solve your problem
I found that if I have a problem and throw it at my characters, they are perfectly capable of solving it for themselves. They talk it out as I write. It’s very kind of them. I rather enjoy this sort of thing, and I hope you do too.
Here’s what happened when Fred discovered he had no money.
He is in the Inn of the Seventh Happiness with its owner, Victor, and his brother George, a flying expert.
Fred sat stunned. This new reality, where he could no longer put any request for credits back to Marsh, or even Buckmore, meant … “I’m penniless. A pauper.”
“Yep. Thought that’d come as a shock to you.” George was back to his usual jaunty self.
“Why are you so pleased about it then?”
“Because… I have shares in the Pelican [flying machine] and its successors.”
“And so do I,” said Victor.
“Which means that Victor and I in partnership can probably fund a lot of this project. The two things we’re concerned about are what happened to Lupin’s shares, because we don’t want anyone else jumping in, and whether Mariusz, who as you remember is a sleeping partner in all this, is actually expecting us to turn up right on time. And the last part of the puzzle is getting the Vex to trade with him.”
“Vex… but is anyone left at Vexstein who wouldn’t think this project is ridiculous?”
They paused, looking gloomily at the table, thinking.
George looked up. “Hang on… ‘I specialise in the impossible’. Somebody at Vexstein said that to me when we went to that grand meeting where they accepted the idea of the time tunnel.”
“Pogo,” Victor said, nodding. “I remember. Pogo was at that meeting. He’s in charge of the brewery. Locksley left him to it.”
“So instead of this being a project for the Realms, for the Kings’ Council, are we saying we’re just going to do it ourselves? Even in the middle of all this…? Us three and Pogo?” Fred clearly thought the others were mad.
“Why not?” George said. “Although I think we should have a chat with Robin and Alexandre to make sure Kurtz are happy with the idea. Maybe they are the funding partners, as our shares are not negotiable money.”
“I could open a line of credit here for you. Use the shares as security. And suggest to Kurtz they cancel Lupin’s shares, as he died,” Victor said.
“You give credit?” Fred’s astonishment with the ways of the world outside the castle was growing.
“Sure, been doing it all my life. Took over from Dad, of course. I remember him opening a line of credit for Hugo… never closed it.”
George looked at Fred, and they both turned to Victor. “How much credit does Hugo have?” they asked as one.
From Princelings Revolution, Ch 19
Several interesting things turn up in this, almost as if I’d planned it from day one. Maybe it’s all in the subconscious. Hugo opened his line of credit with Victor’s dad in Book 4 (which is a prequel). The shares in the Pelican and its successors came about in book 6, and I never knew why I thought it was important, but I did. The question of ethics over using Hugo’s money forms a discussion they have on the next few pages. They work it all out for themselves. I just write it down.
Does it always solve the problem?
I think the issue of the Neville/Dylan mix-up shows that it really doesn’t always end the way you plan it. Fred had never managed to tell Neville anything important by mistake, and it was down to Willoughby to finally get what I really wanted as a plot point into action.
The characters did all they could, and there were some exciting and dangerous moments, but it turned out almost an anticlimax. But then, this is near the end of the story…
Hope you enjoyed that little venture into Princelings Revolution, and my character wrangling didn’t give too much away!
drawings copyright Jemima Pett
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