You may have occasionally heard writers talking about their characters surprising them. Or that their characters did stuff they weren’t expecting, or weren’t supposed to do. To the average person, this may sound insane. I thought it sounded insane too, until it happened to me. But let me walk you through the process and maybe it will make a little more sense.
A few days ago, I was writing the second chapter of my new work in progress. My female protagonist, Seri, ran into a very bad situation. As I began writing the scene, I had only a vague idea of how it should proceed. I knew that this event had to happen, and I knew that there would have to be consequences. But the details of it, especially the parts involving magic, had not fully formed in my mind yet.
Side note: this is why I can’t really define myself as a plotter or a pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer). I do both. I had plotted this scene, but left the actual details to come out when I was writing, which is exactly what happened.
As I wrote, I developed the details. Based on the rules of magic I have established for this world, I reasoned out the exact way the scene should play out. Halfway through, I realized this would also serve to reveal some huge details about the full nature of magic in this world. That’s cool. Moving right along.
Seri is faced with this situation. She can let it go now, or… oh. You see, as a writer, I’ve fully developed Seri’s personality, motivations, and so on, over the course of the previous 130,000 words. Anything she does now should follow logically from what’s been established. And clearly, based on all that, she would not let this go.
Knowing this in my brain, I continued writing, just following what would logically play out, based on Seri’s personality, and the rules of this world I’ve established. Her actions had consequences. When the scene was all over, I sat back and whispered, “Oh, Seri. What did you DO?”
This changes her entire character arc for the book. It alters some major scenes I had planned later on. And it gives me something entirely new to develop when she meets certain other characters.
I could have chosen not to write this chapter that way. I could have kept her from taking this action. It would have been easy. But it would have contradicted either her character or the world’s rules. And readers would have noticed.
This is what I mean when I say a character surprised me. Logically, it’s not a surprise. It makes perfect sense. But I did not see it coming. I guess that’s more of an author’s blind spot than anything else, maybe? At any rate, it certainly makes writing interesting.
In other news, the publication road continues. Yesterday, I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors. This is another (important) step on the road. The resources and advice this group provides are immensely helpful. Check them out!