How My Story Wrote Itself

Last week I talked about how I started writing the second book of the series while the first is being edited. It’s been an interesting experience so far. I’m having an easier time of describing the character experience. Instead of focusing solely on the plot, I have been spending time with each character, getting into their heads and showing their current emotional state. I think having to reintroduce the characters while giving light background on what happened in the last novel has helped. I still need to get better at physical descriptions. But I’ll save that for the second pass. Right now I’m just trying to get the story down. And this story is more complicated than the last one.

For instance, I follow four separate storylines in the second novel as opposed to just one. And also there is a bit of mystery involved in this novel. Each storyline has a small mystery that needs to be solved. So trying to figure out how those mysteries unfold and how they are resolved has been a journey unto itself. One storyline is going to resolve completely different from how I first envisioned it. But as I was writing the treatment, another solution just popped onto the page before I knew it. It not only changes how this story ends, but it changes the stories that are to follow. And yet it feels like the right thing to do.

The reason the story changed from how I planned it to end is for one main reason. I planned the story to service the plot. How I originally wanted it to end would set up another conflict for the story after this one, and wouldn’t be solved until the last book of the series. But as I was writing the treatment, I wrote out the scene from the character’s perspective. I knew the character would be against the story ending that way and he fought it until both I and the character he was trying to persuade gave in. It’s why I describe him as an extremely charming fellow, he even charmed me.

I’m not surprised this happened. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like to put too much detail into my pre-writing. I just want to know what the characters want and where they’re going. Because sometimes the characters decide to do or say something I didn’t plan and it takes the story into another direction. In the end I’m still going to make it to the planned destination but the character takes me on a different route. I like when that happens. It feels like the story is writing itself.

This used to happen to me all the time with my screenwriting, the characters would start saying things I didn’t plan for them to say. But it felt right for them in that moment. It’s kind of like life, you never know what you are going to do until you are in that moment. The same goes for my characters. I can say this is how they will respond, but in the moment that can all change. If your character is a living breathing being, on the page, they will take on a life of their own that you can’t dictate. As a reader I find that fascinating and it pushes me to write more because even I don’t know for sure what will happen.