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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When characters take over

I’m currently rewriting a dystopian story. It’s gritty, it’s harsh. It’s cruel. And even though I’d planned out the rewrite as I always do, the second chapter completely broadsided me. Maybe it happens to you too. You start by writing something. Then make a small seemingly insignificant decision that circles out into something much bigger than you’d ever anticipated.

That’s what happened to me. I’m not going to go into detail, but I made a small choice of having a nasty piece of work being in a confined space with my main character while she’s bound up and blindfolded. I’d planned that she’d be seriously freaked out by him, but that it would be the extent of it.

Thing is though, that my writing method basically requires one thing above all else: That my characters are alive in my head. That all of the characters are alive in my head.

Which means that all characters have motivations, wants, needs, likes, dislikes and pet peeves. And this creepy character hates the main character so deeply that he wants to hurt her in the worst way he can think of.

In short, I’d created a scenario that he could take advantage of in ways I didn’t anticipate and that have ramifications on the entire story.

Which leaves me with a big dilemma. Part of me wants to rewrite this chapter, with me changing the scenario so that the creep can’t take the same advantage. It’ll be easier. It will make the whole story fall back into the plan.

I just don’t know if I should. I don’t know if I’m just running scared. Maybe I am. I often write scenes I don’t like from a humane point of view, but go with it because it feels right for the story. In a lot of ways, this scene does. It illustrates how far the world has sunk. It can show a lot of stuff that might not feel as real otherwise.

It feels dicey to me, though. Is this the story I want to tell? Or is the original version in my head the one I should go with?

Honestly, I like the original version more.

But if…

No. I’m cutting that chapter. I’ll just keep it somewhere. In case I change my mind. 

Have you also had your characters take over and veer off your chosen path? What did you do? How did it work out?


Patchi said...

Save it. Maybe the problem is that it's too much for the second chapter.

Diana Wilder said...

Great post! I'm with Patchi: save it. Sometimes when I'm writing a scene a character will come out with something completely unexpected. I can't pretend that it is planned. The best example of this is the hero of one of my books in a series. He started out as a minor villain, though perhaps 'creep' is a better word. He strode into the story and took it over. You'll never be bored if your write.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I almost always have that happen in my books and then my outline is completely messed up. For me, it usually is an improvement and provides depth to one of the characters.

Misha Gerrick said...

Patchi, that's a good point. Did keep a copy of this chapter in its original form just in case.

Diana, I love it when that happens! This probably won't be such a case, though. Creep is probably too light a word for this particular guy.

Susan, that's true. Usually if something comes out of left field, I'm not worried because it improves the book. But this particular even would have completely changed it into something I'm not quite sure I would have liked.

Liz A. said...

I'd go with your original version, but keep the chapter to use later maybe. Sometimes my characters like to veer off, and usually I follow them, but sometimes they veer off into a ditch, and I have to manhandle them back to the road.

Misha Gerrick said...

Hahaha Liz that's a great analogy. :-D