Years of writing stories has taught me to embrace beta-readers. (By which I mean bear-hugs, in between bouts of prostrating myself in gratitude at their feet.)
These are the people who proof-read your work. They point out the typos, correct your dodgy grammar, help retain the continuity and get to say, 'Erm, what did you actually mean here? Because it's juvenile gibberish.'
All of this is the bread and butter. It keeps your work looking polished, so that the reading public are none the wiser that it was once all a bit flaky. But there are moments when beta-readers really come into their own. Moments like Darren in fact.
Only twice in my life has it come to this. Usually one of the previous solutions does the trick. But if they've failed, then the only recourse is to add a second, non-fictional mind into the mix. Be honest. Tell your beta-reader straight out that you don't know what you're doing.
(They will never admit it, but they've long since accepted their unspoken duties in calming your creative temperament. They'll be less surprised than you could comfortably imagine.)
The first time I had to call in someone to read a scene and tell me what had gone wrong, it turned out to be my fault. I thought I had stopped trying to be a control freak. I hadn't. I was trying to force my character into acting out of character. What can I say? I was young and needed the money.
In short, it was all the way back to solution number one. Really letting go was very rewarding. I got another twelve novels out of that previously unruly character.
Last night, Darren took me into my second ever major SOS. This time my beta-reader admitted that she was as lost as I was. She couldn't get her head around him either. That wasn't quite what I wanted to hear. But all was not lost.
"What kind of character do you think Darren is?" I asked. She pondered it and spoke aloud. We compared notes. She talked. I listened. I talked. She listened. Suddenly she said something which set a light-bulb off in my head. It illuminated Darren completely. It showed that he hadn't been out of control at all. In fact, once you knew what he was up to, it was a delicious, quite fascinating story-line.
It turned out that I'd been trying to control him too much. Trust your characters, and remember rule number one: let them tell their story in their own way.
Funny how it always comes back to that.