Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Surprise! Look what you just wrote!

This is the last post on my favorite instructional book, Finding Your Writer's Voice., and so I thought it only appropriate to end with chapter forty-two, which starts by quoting Robert Frost. "No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader".

Boxing yourself in with a strict plot line often leads to predictable pathways, and let's face it, there's nothing more disappointing than getting a third the way through a book and being able to guess with a 97% probability how it's going to end.

But, if only for a moment, what if you strayed? Sure, you might just waste time, but you also might find that your villain actually has a compassionate side, or there may be a hidden story swimming just beneath that set-in-stone structure you swear will assure your success.

Frank and Wall state " make something happen, you have to deviate from the intended story and write at the edges of the known. This often is a risky proposition, and indeed, it's probably one of the reasons writers are willing to spend hours writing lifeless, utterly safe revisions." 

By now I'm sure you've guessed that I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer. Pretty much my day-to-day existence thrives on a big wing, big prayer. I love swimming in the unknown, firm in the faith of my imagination. But I understand that to some this may seem odd, possibly just downright weird.

Some of the most successful authors would never write this way. They are incredible at their craft; using graphic organizers to help them see the contrast in their characters, having a formula for the flow of a plot. They've figured out what the masses want and they're more than happy to oblige. While I admire their ability to write stories in a concise manner and crank out great work, I often wonder what would have happened if they would have strayed a little, let that character fumble in the dark, taken a left when they had planned to go right.  It's an intriguing thought, isn't it?

Have you ever surprise yourself? Did it help your writing?


  1. I agree, it is; I often think that the work I love most is that of authors whom let the characters/setting dictate the work. I have asked several of my fav.'s and often that's the case, just recently I was talking with Shelena Shorts and she mentioned the story is not going the way she thought it would, because she would rather not force her characters onto her "laid" out path, I loved that - and think it makes such a difference, instead of knowing where your going 100% allowing yourself the freedom to venture into unknown waters, allows the story to ebb and flow in unique and ever beautiful ways! :)

    LOVE that...and love that in The Light of Asteria! :)

  2. I do it all the time in the rough draft. I can always clean it up and make certain it all fits when I do the edits. That's what editing is for. My characters have surprised me more than once.

  3. Me too! :-) I'm currently writing the sequel to Light, and last month a new character was unexpectedly born. I hadn't planned on him, but he's fast becoming one of my favorites!