Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Convenient-ish Circumstances

When readers pick up a well though out novel, the storyline appears seamless.  One plot point flows into another, and each character acts consistently within their personality to find a solution to whatever question is central to the book.

Or so it would seem.

As I got close to the ending of Homecoming, I found myself searching for solutions to the problem I'd created.  I had a general idea of how I wanted the novel to end, but I wasn't sure how I could do it in a way the reader would plausible within the context of the universe they were indulged in.  Then it hit me - I'd introduced a plot device nearly 20,000 words ago that was intended to show how far we'd come in hijacking another race's technology but never meant to be central to the story.  However, that plot device was now a perfect vessel to bring about the ending I wanted.

I even cackled when I discovered this(yes, I cackle...most evil bastards do that), and I found myself wondering how many other writers employ this as a means to resolve things in their books.  It's not like I thought my throwaway would be necessary as the book wound along - it was just something fun.  However, it fit so perfectly that I found myself wondering if it was divinely inspired.  I thought, Did Stephen King always mean for the boiler to explode at the Overlook?  When JK Rowling devised the coins imbued with a protean charm in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, did she know that those coins would come in handy for the DA members to communicate in book 7?

How much great writing is planned out and how much is happy coincidence?  Looking back at my own work, I found that I'd done similar things at a rate of about 50/50.  Sometimes I planned things out in intricate detail and deliberately steered the story towards a place I knew those little snippets would come in handy later.  In fact, most readers enjoy going back through works they enjoyed and finding the nuggets they missed that would later prove crucial.  But there were also times when I needed something to make it all click, and I noticed something never intended to be that important, but it worked when plugged into place.

I'm now convinced that there are loads of other writers out there who are similar to me in that regard.  Most of our stories have always been nebulous so that they can develop on their own as we write them, and that illusion comes only after they're in print and look nice and shiny under a glossy cover.  Knowing this on a conscious level helps make things easier and takes the pressure off when writing - I can now accept that there are times when it's okay to just let things develop and that my previous writing can save the day.

I also will continue to snicker when I think of how many readers may never know that about their favorite authors.

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