I've just finished two novels and am writing this to delay starting the editing process. I'm still a relatively new author and have discovered letting your characters lead helps me avoid the dreaded writer's block.
Each of the novels I've written has started out with me pretty much knowing where the plot is headed. So I think. I'm a sort of half plotter - half panster. I'm becoming more of a plotter by outlining the events I want in the book. I'm a panster by taking an idea that comes along in the middle of my writing and going with it. The combination seems to work for me.
I've found that I might as well let my characters lead since they are going to whether I fight them on it or not. In my first novel, Healing Love, Magdelina Taylor was supposed to be a nasty young woman bent on breaking up or at least causing problems for the main characters. Her mother, Beulah, is a nasty. Through several books she's a nasty. (I could use a different word but you know what I mean.) I tried to make Magdelina be nasty. Very hard I tried to force her into the role I had planned for her. She absolutely refused.
Non-writers don't understand that characters come alive in the mind of the writer. Talk about it with people and they give you this funny look as if you are crazy. (Maybe we are. Or I am.) My characters are alive to me with distinct personalities and have plans and goals with their lives. Maggie (as she prefers to be called) let me know in no uncertain terms that she was not going to be who I thought she was going to be.
I was stymied for a while. It was my first book after all. When I finally allowed Maggie to lead me the way she wanted everything worked out. Not only was my writing flying from my fingers but suddenly Maggie became the lead female in the second book.
Character traits can also be directed by the character. I didn't know Nell yet but she was out there waiting to be found in the book. Once she was imagine my surprise when she whispered instead of speaking in a normal voice. Letting Nell whisper instead of forcing her to talk in a normal tone helped define the character and her background. Why she whispered. I could have simply ignored her but I would have struggled to write some of the effects her life had on her.
Allowing the characters to lead can send the story in different ways than you expect. Plot lines can change. Character interactions are modified. I've had to scrap entire outlines because the characters took it in a different direction than I thought. Hopefully it's better than if I'd forced my view of their world on them.
Letting the characters influence where the story goes is, for me, part of the fun of writing. Just as our lives go in directions we don't expect, the lives of those in our books may take us someplace other than where we are aimed. Let them take you down the unexpected path. It just might be a better one.
Linda Apple is the author of Writing From Your Soul, Writing Life ~ Your Stories Matter, Connect ~ A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers, POW; Promises Kept and Women Of Washington Avenue, her debut novel and the first book in her Moonlight Mississippi series. Her personal experience stories have been published in 16 of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her devotions have been published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She lives in Fayetteville Arkansas with her husband, Neal, their five children, five children-in-love, and ten grandchildren.
Jody Bailey Day writes inspirational fiction from west Texas. Her debut novel, Washout Express, released June 2013 from Harbourlight Books. Her short stories, poems, devotionals, and articles have appeared in Mature Living, Splickety Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Southern Writers Magazine, and Christiandevotions.us, She is a two time Grand Prize Winner at the East Texas Christian Writers Conference, and a Faithwriters.com Best of the Best award winner. She and her pastor husband have six grown children and nine grandchildren.
Deborah Dee Harper writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, by way of Michigan, Kentucky, Alaska, Mississippi, and Alaska (again). Deb is a graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild classes and writes Christian humorous and inspirational books for both children and adults. Her children’s adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, available in both e-book and print, is being re-published as six individual print books. Her Road’s End series (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) for adults is also contracted and should be published soon. She is currently nearing completion on the first book of another series. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency.
Lisa Lickel is an award-winning multi-published inspirational novelist, blogger, reviewer, and writing mentor. A freelance editor, Lisa loves all things historical. Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and Christian Fiction Online.
Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador, where she could rival Captain Jean Luc Picard in consumption of Earl Grey tea. She is the author of Emergence, Retaliation, and Capitulation, novellas and novels in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in English literature (Renaissance) and for eighteen years taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His poetry has appeared in leading journals and is collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond.His fiction includes a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red, and two suspense novels, Deadly Addictive and The Lazarus File, and a historical romance, Lightning on a Quiet Night. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ groups and conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction and poetry, as well as essays on writing, ethical issues, and U.S. foreign policy.
Editor/Author Linda Yezak lives with her husband in a forest in east Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She is a speaker/lecturer for various writers' groups and conferences. Her fiction books include Give the Lady a Ride, The Simulacrum, and The Cat Lady's Secret. Her nonfiction books include Writing in Obedience, co-written with Hartline Literary agent Terry Burns.
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