Thursday, April 21, 2016

Story Control

This post is for the writers in the audience, because most “regular” people won’t understand.  I’m going to sound snobbish and elitist and like I’m trying to be an arteest.  You know – we’ve all encountered people from one industry or another that tells us that there’s something about their work that we normal folks find off-putting.  With writers, it’s the notion that the story writes itself to a large extent.

Non-writers don’t get this.  “What the hell are you talking about?” they’ll stammer.  “You wrote the damn story – of course you control it.”

Anyone who has written more than a three page story for their high school English class knows that that’s not always true.  As the writer, we have a general outline of where we want the story to go, but stories often surprise us.  Characters come up with the strangest twists, and the action often leads us to an unexpected rabbit hole.  We think the hero and his girlfriend are destined for marriage, only to discover that the female partner who led him to the break in the case has a lot more heat with him than we thought.  Or maybe the explosion that destroyed the enemy’s camp didn’t take out the enemy leader because that person was off on a walk at the time.

Whatever it is, it sounds insane.  How can we not control what we’re putting on paper of our own free will?  Well, most of us see the story as a movie in our head first, and as we jot it down, the movie changes(something that’d be really cool if it happened when watching a movie in the theater) – we’re just along for the ride.  As a new plot point develops or a background character becomes more important than originally envisioned, the novel changes from where we thought it was going.  Yes, it can be frustrating at times, but I’ve learned it’s best to just let it change, for trying to shoehorn your original story into one that no longer works is a recipe for literary disaster.

So when your friends tell you that they don’t get how your book just suddenly changed, smile and nod at them, supplying them with whatever stock answer you feel will placate them.  They won’t understand, and trying to explain it to them will make you sound like an effete snob.  Just accept it happens and that no one will know how or why.

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