I’ve written a bit recently about the concept of no plot surviving contact with the characters, and that holds true even for such nebulous, vague plots as fill my pantser head.
I don’t map out plots. I begin with an idea, maybe even just a character or scene, and then go from there. Nothing’s planned out, except I know I’ve got to take these characters on a bumpy ride and tie up all the loose ends for a happily-ever-after ending. How they get to that ending is always up for grabs.
In my latest work-in-progress, the characters aren’t doing what I expected. They’re veering off-course in their own intractable ways, which makes my job a hell of a lot more difficult. I can’t just follow where they lead, because they’re not necessarily headed in the direction I want them to go. So, I wrestle with them.
Not literally, of course. Figuratively.
For instance, one of the secondary characters demanded a voice in the alternating POV style of this story. I gave in to her demand. Every so often, the sequence of narrative alternating between Sam (our hero) and Dana (our heroine) switches to Sonya (our heroine’s best friend). After all, it’s Sonya’s “story” that gets the ball rolling in this manuscript. Strangely, the villain (or maybe just one of the villains) of this piece has not demanded a voice. I live in dread that he will. Or, if he does, maybe he’ll find redemption.
It’s a toss-up.
As stated in earlier articles, the characters pretty much take control of the story. They know where they want to go and fight me to get there. Sometimes, it works out, as it did with Aridis and Edan in The Falcon of Imenotash. That particular story grabbed me by the throat and would not let go. It remains a favorite of mine: powerful, multi-faceted, and surprisingly deep for such a small book.
Allowing the characters take control (as though I’m actually giving permission–hah!) can yield some wonderful benefits when it comes to storytelling. Sometimes I’ll go back and read passages and think, “Wow, that’s awesome stuff!” Other times, I succumb to the inevitable “face-palm” and wonder how I could have written such dross. Regardless, this absence of control results in a tumultuous process of emotional highs and lows. I’m sure the psychiatrists out there would have field day with this.
So, the latest work-in-progress is giving me a few fits. That’s nothing new. Want to know what it’s about? Here’s the draft book blurb: Professional photographer Dana Secrest has a secret and doesn’t even know it. When she storms from her best friend’s home on Christmas Eve–not the wisest decision she’s ever made–security contractor Sam Galdicar follows her to save her from her own hot temper and impulsive action. Upon arriving home, Dana discovers her apartment has been ransacked. Then an attempt is made on her life. She doesn’t know who’s trying to kill her or why, but Sam is determined to protect the woman whose eyes don’t need a camera to see the truth.
Yeah, another heroine with a hot temper that goads her to behave in less than intelligent ways. But something’s got to be the catalyst that sparks the romance, right? For more kicks and giggles, part of the story takes place in St. Paris, Ohio, a real town just a few miles north of where I live. How’s that for verisimilitude?
Send good vibes my way, because I hope to finish the story in April with publication scheduled for the end of April or early May.