Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Colluding with my Characters

Unsplash via Pixabay
When it comes to writing, I'm a pantser (as in "flying by the seat of my pants"), making things up as I go along. I've tried to write from a synopsis because it seemed like the responsible, professional thing to do, but I always end up frustrated. My characters are far too opinionated to amble with me down a predetermined path and so we end up at a fork in the road. One way leads to the ending I've planned out, while the other leads to adventure and collusion with my characters.

Clearly, I have a preference.

It's this collusion with my characters that takes the place of a synopsis for me. I'm terrible at planning the plot of a story, but I'm methodical about creating my characters. Before I write a word, I know exactly who will be populating my story, and a great deal about what they will and won't do. I used to flatter myself, believing that I knew everything about them before I started, but, over time, I've discovered that they're as dynamic as real people. If I don't allow them to grow and change, my story goes nowhere.

Sometimes, it seems as though my best ideas come from out of nowhere. One night last week, for example, a scene presented itself as I was trying to fall asleep. It was nothing I'd ever considered, yet it was exactly where I needed to go.

This was no accident, and it wasn't as "out of nowhere" as it seemed. Over the last several months, I've been conscientiously honing my writing habit, working to create a schedule that, although less than ideal, gives me regular access to the characters I've created. The scene that presented itself was a result of regular collusion with my characters, through dialogue, description and the details of their lives.

Into every writer's life, at least a little structure must fall. For me, a little structure is indeed best. because it leaves room for my characters to grow.

So, ask me anything about one of my characters. If I don't know the answer, I know enough to collude with them to find it.

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