By Thonie Hevron
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an outliner. I need a roadmap showing where my story is going. A lifetime of structure will do that to you. Life as an Army brat then a career in law enforcement will do that to you. When authors talk about being “pantsers” (writing by the seat of their pants), I know that I would flounder if I started a story that way. I need an outline.
Imagine my surprise recently when a secondary character hijacked my scene. I’m working on my third book in the “Nick and Meredith Mystery” series. My main characters are, of course, Nick and Meredith, a pair of Sonoma County Sheriff’s Detectives assigned to the Violent Crimes Investigation unit. At this writing, they are traveling to the scene of a homicide set in the remote Sonoma County hills. Nick is the sergeant in charge; Meredith is paired with another detective, Joey Webb. Joey is a sharp, attractive, young man whose partner is tied up in court. He seems attracted to Meredith and it surprised me when the first glimmer of interest appeared. Hey, this wasn’t in the outline! Where is this going?
I’m fortunate to have an excellent consultant in my story construction. I’ll call him “Mack.” Mack is helping to keep my story accurate. In this direction, I’m re-writing an existing scene. In the middle these words, Joey Webb slides his sunglasses off and studies Meredith. Where did this come from?? Hmmm.
By the end of the day, I’ll know where this is going, or maybe by tomorrow. No matter the timeline, Joey and Meredith will show me the way. I’d been toying with dropping the whole secondary plot line involving Meredith and her father repairing their relationship. It’s a good idea and I hope it will happen but it may not fit in this story. Maybe next book.
My resource well keeps overflowing with great books, websites, people to interview so Meredith will—at this writing, anyway—spend more time wrestling with her PTSD than arguing with her father.
So, I will just re-work my outline after my characters decide where they are going. I’ll make sure it fits into the story arc and is believable.
But for now, I’m liking the journey that Joey and Meredith have launched.
We’ll see where it leads.
4 replies on “When Characters Jack Your Story”
Yes, I love it when the characters take on a life of their own (although sometimes it’s hair-raising when they stray from the script and you have no choice but to follow them and hope it doesn’t mean having to rewrite the previous six chapters!)
Ain’t it the truth??
Good point! Sometimes characters push their way into my stories too. Then amazing things happen. But it becomes frustrating when they don’t behave in such way that it adds to the plot.
I look forward to your next Meredith and Nick story!
Thanks, Robin! This latest “jacking” has now led to an entire plot change. Sigh.