Monday, November 22, 2010

When your characters take your story hostage

(Reposted from my deviantArt blog)

Blog lapse recently is due to the fact that I'm camped out in Houston for the week (I live in Los Angeles), visiting my stepdad and mum (and her awesomesauce cooking). :) Houston is where I grew up and went to grade/middle/high school, and I still think of it as my hometown. All mosquitoes aside, it's not half bad.

In book news, I've finished my revisions on Legend, and am back at work on Legend 2--although it always takes me a few days to get back into the groove. Currently L2 wordcount is at 32,085. I think my writing goals might be sporadic at best throughout Thanksgiving week, but we'll see how it goes.

In writing L2, I've started learning a few things about my writing habits. Writers usually fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of writing obsessively to a detailed outline, or writing freestyle where you just let every chapter take you wherever the story might go with no cohesive novel plan. I am no different. With L2, I started out with a general chapter-by-chapter outline but quickly realized about 7 chapters in that it was starting to veer off my planned path. Which is no surprise, seeing as Legend did the same thing. It's because as I write, my characters develop in ways that I don't expect, and their surprising motivations and actions start to change the mold of where the story's supposed to go. If I originally planned for everyone to meet in some bordertown, for instance, one of the characters will mutiny halfway there and strike out on their own. Or some other character might deceive another out of jealousy and/or spite. This stuff all happens out of nowhere, and when they come up, I'm always blindsided by it. And then I can do nothing but listen to the characters, even though they usually leave my neatly plotted outline in an apocalyptic wreck.

This used to freak me out a bit, as it does not help me plan out an accurate schedule for when I can finish the book in question. But lately I've learned that this is simply my brain's process, that in the end all of the pieces will connect (sometimes with duct tape and string), and that the characters will still arrive at the basic ending I have chosen for them. That's one thing that hasn't changed so far--the beginnings and the ends of my stories. No matter what twists and turns my characters decide to take for me in the middles, the endings always come out the same. It's like they try to avoid their fates, in vain. Mwahaha.


Aun-Juli said...

Hah! I'm writing my first story with a 'detailed' scene outline, and I've been finding that leaving it just detailed enough gives my characters plenty of leeway to steal the story. It's been pretty crazy to see how the storyline can still continue regardless of where the characters are taking it. Hopefully it will end where I planned it, otherwise I'm going to be panicking. ;D

Good luck with L2!

Marie said...

Hi Aun-Juli! Yeah, I agree and do it the same way now--I write a relatively general outline that gives my chars room to wiggle, because wiggle they do. :)