We’ve all heard authors complain that their characters sometimes go off at a tangent, in a direction vastly different to what they’d intended, developing themselves in new and unusual ways, growing more than planned until a minor character can become a major protagonist, and so on. I’ve made similar comments myself, as a book goes off the rails of my carefully-scripted plot, and I’m left haring after its hero and/or villain, shouting, “Come back! Who told you you could do that? Stop, I say!”
Way back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, there was a radio comedy program in Britain called “The Goon Show“. I grew up listening to its reruns, cackling merrily at its zany humor (it was a contemporary of other BBC comedy shows like “Hancock’s Half Hour“, “Take It From Here“, etc., and would go on to inspire the creators of Monty Python). John Lennon of The Beatles also cited the program as a major influence.
The Goon Show was famous for scripts that were totally, utterly logical within their own internal context, but completely irrational and ridiculous outside it. Here, for example, is the dialog between Bluebottle and Eccles (while in a “ground-floor attic”) about time and its keeping.
The Goon Show devoted an entire episode to authors and their characters. “Six Charlies in search of an author” was a parody of an earlier Italian play, “Six Characters in Search of an Author” by Luigi Pirandello. It had the characters take over the plot of a novel, writing their own moves when they didn’t like those the author had designed for them, and changing the plot to suit themselves (including forcibly removing the author at one point when he objects). It’s one of my favorite Goon Show episodes, particularly now that I’m an author myself. Here it is for your enjoyment. The musical interludes have been edited out of this recording.
So, you see, wayward characters are nothing new, and we’re not alone in decrying their mayhem!