You know what I'm talking about. You're writing along, happily involved in your plot, perfectly content with your hero and heroine and everything is going smoothly...
Then that one character, the one you had fully intended to be a secondary, sort of throw-away character, pipes up...
"Hey you. You there with the serious look on your face. Yeah, you. Writer. What about me?"
"What about you? your story line ends in another chapter."
"Oh no it doesn't! I'm not going to go quietly!"
"What does that mean, 'you're not going to go quietly?' I created you. If I say your storyline ends in the next chapter, then it ends in the next chapter. Now, go sit over there and be quiet. I'm at a pivotal plot point and need to concentrate!"
"Oh yeah? Well, concentrate on THIS!"
And that character does something you hadn't really planned for him to do and suddenly your story has changed. Oh, not that he's going to come in and take over completely, but let's face it - he's made a difference and now you're going to have to deal with that.
Sometimes that is more than an author can handle and they allow that secondary character to take over, to become another hero in their story line. Sometimes the author solves this problem by killing that character off. That's all well and good - IF it fits in with the plot. Then again, some (most) authors try to develop that secondary character into his or her own story - promising them the sequel if they'll just behave long enough for the first book to be written.
That's what happened with my first book, Changing Times, where the very bad guy suddenly got a heart. What was I going to do with him now? I had planned on a bloody massacre where the hero got to pummel him into a pulp, but now what? I had to go back and ease up a bit on his villainy, but I've still been smacked by readers.
No, really! I mean someone walked up to me and HIT me with my second book, Changing Hearts, because I made them love the villain they had hated.
Handling unruly secondary characters is a fine art. You want to develop your plot and your main characters to the point that they seem like real people To that end, they need friends, families, co-workers and not just as plot devices.
Keeping a tight rein on those characters without totally stifling them means walking a very fine line. You have to make them believeable and you have to make your readers care about them - just not as much as they care about the main characters. At the same time, you cannot allow them to take over your story. What do you do if that starts to happen?
You can let them have their moment in the sun, let them take over for a little while and see how that works for your story. You can stifle them, pushing them to the background and ignoring their pitiful cries to be heard. You can also open a new document, start writing their story, and see if that will keep them quiet long enough for you to finish what you started.
What do YOU do when those secondary characters try to take over? How do you handle them?