I have learned to let my stories guide me.
Sometimes the characters take over. Sometimes it’s the setting, or the plot itself. Whether you write with an outline or like to live dangerously and fly blind, things won’t go the way you plan. Sometimes it’s when I think I know where a story is going, that it does a complete 180 and screws with my perception of the tale I thought I knew inside and out.
Happens to me all the time
Last week I bled myself dry on a chapter of my Embracing Entropy series and needed a break. But my energy was up and my fingers were itching to get something out. So I laid back and let something new take over. It was an idea I’d been kicking around for a while and the time seemed right.
At first I poured a great deal of emotional attachment to the story. Let some of my childhood in there, played with the drama of another person’s experiences.
I am known to genre hop quite frequently, but this particular piece had the feel of a nice literary short story, or was shaping to at least become a modern short. My descriptions were on, the feel was there, and then I got to the last page or two.
Things get tricky sometimes
My writing Yoda says all stories need a twist to be interesting enough for readers to care about them. I used to hate that. I tried to argue with him over it at first. But I have come to realize that he’s right.
Readers are overloaded with material
I’m not a picky reader. I love all kinds of stories, fiction and non. But even so, there is a world to choose from and only so much time. Authors have to take extra care to make their stories worth while.
What’s the best way to do this? Give your readers a good mind fuck as often as you can. It works.
Just ask Neil Gaiman or Stephen King. haha
I’m not saying every writer should be M. Night Shyamalan. But predictible stories are less likely to please readers. You have to lead them in one direction and then take a hard turn off course. Once you get the hang of it, it’s fun.
Not every story behaves
In my experience the best ones are the ones that make you crazy. Like the one I was writing last week. My margins are full of weird notes like, “WTF?” and “Am I loosing my mind?” The best one was in another piece I wrote, “This is stupid.”
Sometimes writing my frustrations in the margins helps me to finish the story even if I think it will be a dud. You get the words out and you can push through.
I did. And that crazy story turned. It went from a personal literary piece to a horror tale fast. And best of all, the twist fits. It needs some tweaking, like all rough drafts, but those twists and turns are what readers crave. Love them, nurture them, look for them. Finding connections in areas where there were none can make for a memorable story.
That’s what we want
Right? The entire point of getting published is to share our connections and hope that we make an impact. Some stories stay with us. My favorites are the ones that hit me hard. They have a lot to say, but also twists that I could never have dreamed up myself. (And I’m a pretty imaginative person)
Run with it
When things get out of hand and you have no idea what you’re writing, that’s when the magick happens. Embrace it. Love it. Write the hell out of it.