Over the next few weeks I am going to embark on a series of discussions about writing a novel and I may also attempt the same project from a poetry perspective on my other blog. Today however I am going to jump ahead and talk a little bit about planning your novel and knowing what is coming up next, as I have been involved in many diuscussions on this of late. My view on this can be best described through experience and I will relate one experience to you as an example.
This happened during the writing of my second novel. I was midway through it at the time and had a good idea where I was going and I was being very disciplined and writing every night at the same time. I had a small bit character in the book that was adding weight to one of the main characters and this particular evening I was going to my desk to just do a couple of thousands words about her and where she was. Nothing big, nothing ground breaking, just an easy evening on the keyboard.
One of the things I am very strong about in my books is that what happens has to be believable and what would have been possible in the given situation. I am not writing super hero books after all, although I might give that a try one day.
An hour and a half after sitting down at my computer I got up and walked out of the room in tears. The girl was dead, and worse she had done something horrible before she had needed up that way. I never intended her to die, but in the situation she had put herself in, there was no other way it could ever end. I still get teary when I read that chapter of Arlington Reef.
This unexpected event caused me to change the other character and what he did from that point, as his motivation changed the moment she died. It also changed the dynamics between that character and others and helped alter their perspective on life a little too. In the end I did not rewrite my planning, I just went with it and let the story flow using my planning as a loose base.
This little episode showed me that all the planning in the world, whilst a great tool, will not stop the characters doing what they must, and as a writer, you must listen to your characters at all times. Never try to put them in a box just to suit the planning and hard work you've done leading up to that point.
This is an interesting topic and I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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