We authors know that we can’t always control our stories. Sometimes our own stories throw us for a loop.
I once wrote a story in which I planned to kill off a certain character, and I spent a lot of time building his personality so that his eventual death would devastate both my main character and my reader. Then I got to the point where my doomed character was supposed to die…and I couldn’t do it. I loved him too much. Yet the entire story hinged on his death! What was I to do?
Test Your New Direction
When you reach a similar conundrum in your writing, you have one of two options:
1. Stick to your plan. You know where you want to go and your grand scheme must take precedence over the curiosities of the moment.
2. Break with your plan. You are so intrigued by this unexpected turn of events that you might as well follow through on it.
How do you know which one is the better option?
Here’s a quick test: Choose one of the two options and write through it by a thousand to three thousand words (depending on the length of the story).
Once you’ve reached the end of your “test section,” if you are still brimming with ideas and enjoying the experience, then you’re in luck—you picked the right direction.
If you are tired, bored, and frustrated, let the story sit for a few days, maybe even a week. Return to it, re-read what you’ve written, and—based on your gut reaction—either backtrack or move forward.
Trust Your Instincts
In my case, I chose to ditch my plan and keep my character alive. This meant that I had to change my entire strategy for the story, but, in the end, I was so glad that I did so. The spared character brought out more in my main character than anyone else could have, and the new direction delighted my imagination.
So when a new character shows up out of the blue, or someone does something surprising, or your fictional world is not as you expected it to be, don’t panic! Just follow your incredible writer’s instincts!