Stories have a tendency to write themselves…

DebE —  July 25, 2013 — 7 Comments

… no matter how much you think you know better… you probably don’t. The story knows.

So, I’m still writing. Yes, yes, I know, I haven’t kept you updated… been too busy writing, or thinking up marketing strategies for HEALER’S TOUCH – often having to remind myself that the best marketing strategy for HT is to get WARRIOR’S TOUCH out there…

But I just felt like sharing something…

This may not be true for everyone, but for me, it really is: my stories write themselves, and if I try to go against them, I get stifled.

I’ve been reminded of this fact a couple of times recenty.

A few weeks ago I had an idea for WT. I thought “That’ll be really cool, and according to well-established story beats, a good time for that to happen would be… later in the story.” Cool, I thought. I have something to work towards.

Wrong.

I stagnated.

I kept pushing on, telling myself “Come on, write, there’s good stuff coming.” Not that I thought what I was writing at the time was terrible, or even bad. I was just struggling to find momentum in my writing.

Then I had an epiphany. That idea that I thought would work best coming later in the story could easily have happened a chapter or so ago (in relation to the point I was writing at the time) and it would change everything in the book from that moment up a notch. The next trick, of course, was how to write the follow up to this event… I needed to let the readers know it was a big deal, but stay true to the characters. First, I thought I’d get the affected character to reveal the bad news to my main POV character early. That way, the readers knew the deal. But then I didn’t know if that rang true… it would make sense for the character to keep the secret. But I didn’t want to keep the secret from my readers. I played around with showing a different POV, but ended up removing that. I don’t know… it just didn’t gel for me. I haven’t deleted it. If early readers express a desire to see that POV, I may reinstate it. We shall see.

So I went back to normal POV and the affected character keeping quiet, but behaving in an obvious way so the readers should figure out the deal… but, then I thought “If the readers can figure it out, and my characters don’t, that’s just gonna get on people’s nerves”…

So… I have returned to my first instinct… the character talks. It’s a dangerous move for him, but I think he needs to, he can’t carry this burden alone. I’ve put off when he talks by a few days, giving him time to stew. In fact, I’ve made the talking less of a choice and more forced it out of him. So it’s slightly better than my absolute first instinct, I think.

Just goes to show, though. You can think you know better, but really, it’s the story that knows the deal. You can try to force it to fit a mould, and to a certain extent that may work… but ultimately, that story’s gonna be what it needs to be.

DISCLAIMER: This is my experience over the last month or so. I’m not really offering this as advice, just saying you might like to let your instinct guide you now and then if sticking to your outline (even a loose one) is stifling your writing.

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DebE

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Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a nematophagus fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction. Mum of one human & four fur-babies.

7 responses to Stories have a tendency to write themselves…

  1. 

    Your story is pushing you around! What a bully.
    By the way, I agree, the absolute best marketing for HT is for WT to be out there. I am just thinkign about HT…not my being able to read WT…nope, not about me at all…

  2. 

    Yes. I found myself agreeing with most of what you said. I rely heavily on outlines for my stories. They become my roadmap and no matter what happens during the actual writing, things inevitably change some. You see, while it’s cool to have a route planned out, the fun often lies in the journey, how we make it to our final destination. The story has the final say. Nice post. I bet WARRIOR’S TOUCH will be better than you think. Keep going! 🙂

    • 

      I’d be willing to bet that anything that was written according to an outline, and didn’t stray from it, would read like a join-the-dots kind of story. Having a plan sure makes the writing easier, in a way (I still get caught up with the details), but you have to be flexible in these things…

      …kind of like when you turn up to the mechanic’s, expecting your car to be ready and finding out they stuffed up the tyre rotation and have to do it again and have booked it in to do an hour later but you have a son at childcare needs picking up before then, so they give you a loaner car, but it doesn’t have a carseat and someone else is relying on you to get them to an appointment on time (and they’re already a little bit late) so you don’t have time to get the seat out of your own car, but luckily you have a spare seat at home so you can drop them off, go home, fit the seat and go get the child.. then you go back for your car knowing that while the child knows how to make it to the potty/toilet in time at Kindy, he won’t manage elsewhere, but he refuses to get nappies on, so you hold him over the toilet at the mechanic’s, cause they still haven’t finished your car, but he doesn’t go, and you suggest he gets nappies on and he refuses, and you remind him to let you know if he needs the toilet, and then your car is nearly done and then you turn back to the child to see him standing there with a puddle spreading at his feet and all you’ve got to soak it up are his now-wet trousers and his spare shirt…. but your car is now ready and you can go home as planned, if a bit later than planned and with a little more laundry to do…

      Flexible. You have to be flexible.

  3. 

    Oh I get this all the time. I find that by trying to supress what the story wants to do really slows down progress. And sometimes it’s just spontaneous. For example, one of my characters got shot because that felt like what should happen at that moment. I hadn’t planned it at all! But I think it definitely works.
    Can definitely relate to this post!! 🙂

    • 

      My biggest problem was that I had a gut feeling that my characters were doing the wrong thing, going the wrong way… but logically (for them) it made sense, and I didn’t have any good ideas how to get them to do something that made more sense story-wise… took me months to finally find the answer, go back 25000 words and have another go. Sometimes, the best ideas aren’t right there on the surface, and sometimes they are totally spontaneous. I think the key is to remember that if it feels wrong, it probably is, and, yes, you will just have to keep digging till you get there.

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