Letting Your Characters Lead Your Story

It always fascinates me how people write. Some plan everything in detail, others have a framework but leave space for surprises, others (like me) write with no idea what will happen till their fingers hit the keyboard. There’s no single, guaranteed formula, it’s whatever works for you…

My first draft always feels like a wonderful adventure. My novels come when I least expect them – usually they start as a conversation between characters that won’t go away. I’m not writing THAT down, I think. I’m not interested in that. I’ll fight it for a while but the characters are persistent, going over and over it until I weaken. Okay, I tell them. I’ll write it down but then that’s it. You can go away and leave me alone.

Cue me sitting at my laptop, typing out the conversation, expecting to get it on the page in five minutes and move onto other things. Cut to an hour later and there I am, still typing, amazed at where the conversation has led me, discovering characters who come to me fully formed and with their story to tell. Before I know it I have 10,000 words, then 20,000, and on it goes until I’m consumed by it.

I have friends who won’t write a word until they’ve got every scene planned out, whereas at best, I have a couple of scenes I’m working towards. Mostly I follow the characters where they lead me. Sometimes it’s a dead end, and I’ve had to delete whole sections, but I’ve never been precious about getting rid of parts that don’t serve the story, and I usually learn a lot about them along the way.

For me, writing is a process of uncovering the story; it’s during the writing process that the magic happens. Maybe this approach will work for you – just follow your characters where they want to lead you.

You might just be surprised by what you find.


This post originally appeared on skyharrison.com

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