Sometimes the story that you thought you were writing turns on you, grows wings, and flies into a completely different direction. This may not be a bad thing. As a novice writer with limited experience in the world of fiction, I’m not sure if this is normal, or whether I’m so screwed up that I can’t get my story straight. However, I have a gut instinct feeling that I should listen to my characters and follow them where they want to go.
Sure, I would like to play the role of director, framing each shot, sitting back in my chair and yelling, “Action!”, but some of the characters I’ve created have a different opinion as to what my role will be. After all, it’s their story. They are not so demanding that I feel obligated to listen to every suggestion. I mean, I do have a script in mind, somewhat, and know where I would like to see the story go, and for the most part, they let me run with it. Much like seasoned actors though, they quietly pull the rookie director aside and make subtle suggestions that might give the scene more impact. I have to admit that many times they have a point.
Before I even started on the book, I knew what the first scene would be. At least I thought I did. When I finally did sit down to write it, about 1,500 words into it, my characters came to life. By the time I was at 3,500 words, they tried talking me into moving the beginning of the story back twenty years in time. “You NEED to start at the beginning!” they kept screaming at me. Like any sane person would do, I turned the computer off and walked away. I was not having an argument with fictional characters, and I saw no upside into taking it out on my word processor. Over the next few days though, it all started to make sense and I could see their point.
The book HAD to start twenty years earlier. There were just too many juicy details in the back-story to pass up. Try as I might, there would be no way to get all of those details included without going back in time and breaking the flow of the story. They were right, I was wrong. Now, about five thousand words in, I can honestly say that I trust them to guide the way. It also makes me wonder how other writers handle diva characters that demand more screen time (word count). Do you give in and listen to their suggestions, or beat them down and tell them to behave?
At some point, I know that I will need to draw the line and just say, “Hey, the boat is sailing this direction. If you don’t like it then jump out now.” As they will surely learn, I have no problem killing off a character or two in order to maintain the chain of command. It may be their story, but it’s my book. Ha!