Writing is a journey. An author starts out with an idea, knowing where the characters are going. We get in a car, aka favorite chair, start the engine and slowly go on down the road with an acute sense of where we are headed and journal the scenes for the reader as we go along on this wonderful trip of creating a story.
While working on my most recent writing project I learned something I’d never known before. This is what happened:
Recently I had finished a 3-book series with, what I thought, was a little heavier subject matter than I usually write about. I was exhausted and extremely happy when the series was done. I felt I had earned a timeout and took a short break.
But a writer must write, so I said to myself, “I’m going to write something fluffy -- something fun and light-hearted and short on this next trip.”
I get into my writer’s seat and begin the story, knowing pretty much where I’m headed. A good driver always knows their destination. Right?
So, with a light heart I begin. The story is moving along. I’m making headway down the road at a pretty good clip, thinking I should arrive at my destination in one-third of the time it took me to write three books.
When I think it’s about time to wind the journey up, the driving starts taking me further than my planned destination. And further. I’m hanging onto the wheel now. The trip is taking longer than I expected. Then suddenly I feel the characters take over. They are not so quick to let me drive all of a sudden.
In the middle of the night, as I was tooling along, before the thought patterns in my head changed, I was heading in a different direction. How did that happen?
I thought I knew my destination!
My story was taking turns. This was not on the itinerary. Where was I going?
About three quarters into the story, my hero and heroine had changed. The “other” guy who was a secondary player flew right up and became the hero. What?
Shocked, I let the characters drive. I followed their lead and soon enough I realized my destination was not theirs.
How does an author explain that? Or even understand.
I knew then that writers are sometimes just the holders of the pen or tappers of the keyboard, and the destination is in the hands of the characters.
The story went on so long but it wasn’t time to stop. Remember I wanted to write something fun and fluffy and short? None of that happened.
The word count was big enough that I had to break the story into two books.
Three months after I started my journey, I finally reached my destination. Collectively tired, fiercely happy that the story ended the way it was supposed to, and glad to let the characters drive, I typed THE END.
As a writer, it is our job to make sure our characters reach their destination. And sometimes we don’t always know where that is.
When you’re tooling down the road, let them drive. They know where they’re going. Right?
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