Shaping characters and how they can/do take over the story

I think anyone who writes novels will admit that characters do take over the story.  When I start a novel I usually have a few of the main characters in mind and a general plot idea.  But as the story grows, the characters start to demand their own outcomes, their own actions, and sometimes demand to move into the limelight instead of being relegated to minor status.  For example in “Fall of the Western Kings” Dalphnia, a woodland nymph with the power to enchant men was originally only supposed to be the foil that stopped Gant from being able to go after the demon lord Varg.  Instead when he broke her spell and left she was not happy sitting on the sidelines.  She was in love (not nymphonic love that is mostly one-sided, but human love) and she went to get him back.  Thus she became one of the strongest characters in the story! Here’s a link to a short video dealing with Dalphnia.   https://youtu.be/yKjUP10isRE

And here’s an excerpt from “Fall of the Western Kings” chapter 36 where we see her putting  some of her abilities to good use.


She wasn’t far from Blasseldune when the trees brought a different message, of men camped beside the road, several of them, with a campfire (trees always took note of fires) and horses tied nearby.

Gant, thought Dalphnia, and in her excitement, she rushed headlong into the camp without asking the trees if these men carried swords of power. She stopped in the dim circle of the dwindling campfire, having run so swiftly and silently she’d passed the lone sentry without an alarm. One look around and she realized her mistake.

There were six large, bushy bearded, armed men cast around the fire like sticks dropped by high winds.  Before she could duck back into the forest, the guard shouted a warning.  Several of them leaped to their feet, coming immediately to a half-crouch, swords drawn. They had her surrounded.

“What ‘ave we got here?” roared the largest one, brandishing his sword.

“Looks like just what we was lookin’ for,” said another, and lunged at her, his thick fingers eagerly grasping for her arm.

There was no time to exert her influence on these men.  She dodged the initial rush and tried to push off a second attacker.  Before she could escape she was tackled from behind. The force slammed her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her.  She fought to get a breath.

“I’m first,” growled the leader, and he shoved the other man off of her.  Roughly he clawed at her shoulder, rolling her over to face him. Her knees came up reflexively, but he thrust his hairy arms between them forcing her legs apart.

“Stop,” she hissed, “or else!”

“Or else what?” laughed one of the men in the circle.

Trees, she thought.  I need help.  She reached out using the empathy she had with trees to the nearest oak and the 80-foot tall tree responded. A three-inch thick limb swooped down shattering the skull of the man on top of Dalphnia.  Blood and brains splashed across the carpet of dead leaves beside Dalphnia. He was dead before he fell over.

Another limb caught the man next to him in the chest knocking him over backwards. He yelped in pain and rolled away from the tree.

“What the ‘ell’s happenin’,” snapped one of the assailants.

“Th-the tree hit ‘em,” managed another.

Dalphnia was on her feet. The remaining men cowered away, their eyes glued to the trees.

“Hey, didn’t mean no harm, just ‘avin’ a little fun,” said one, his forced smile ripe with fear.

“Fun for whom?” she growled. “I suggest you learn how to treat a lady.”

“Yes, m’m. We’ll be rememberin’ that.”

“I’m sure you will.”

With that Dalphnia raced back into the woods, remembering to ask the trees specifically about swords with strong magic.