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Posts Tagged ‘conflict’

Writing allows you to create a story in which anything you want to happen can and will happen.  But what if your characters take over the story and begin doing what they want to do?  Seems pretty unbelievable, right?  Or perhaps the word you would use is impossible.  But is it?  Is it impossible for characters to take over a story and write it their way?

I have spoken to different authors about the methods in which they write.  Most will actually sit down, and create an outline from beginning to end, with all the stuff in the middle.  They plan everything out, from the moment the character enters the room, to the moment they save the world.  They create character outlines, summaries and detailed notebooks with everything you ever wanted to know about a character, whether or not that information would be included in the book.  Even the famous J.K. Rowling did this – remember the mania over the “Dumbledore is gay” statement?  A simple fact that only she knew, and yet it impacted the entire reading community when it came out.

The characters created by the “outlining” authors have no room to stray from their set path.  They are told where to go and what to do and there is no room left for discussion.  But what about the other writers.  The writers who sit down without a plan.  The ones who just put pen to paper and write.  Can their characters stray?  Yes, yes they can.  And they do.

I was a firm believer in creating an outline, writing a plot summary, planning out every detail of my characters before I even wrote the first line of my story.  Sure, it would take me months of planning before I was ready to write, but that was what made the writing easier, right?  I could sit down, my outline in front of me and I always knew what was going to happen next.  Everything was going great, until one of my characters decided she didn’t want to go to the dance.  She didn’t want to wear that dress.  I had to ask myself, “She can’t do that, can she?”

The story became a struggle, and I had to force my character into the long lavendar gown.  I had to force her to take those few steps over the threshold and into the gymnasium where the school dance was being held.  Why did I have to do this?  Because somehow, she got it in her head that there was something else, something more important to be done at that moment.

I began doing some research, trying to find out if I had actually lost my mind, or if this sort of thing had happened to other writers as well, and wouldn’t you know it, I wasn’t alone.  Even the great author Laurell K. Hamilton as mentioned how her character Anita Blake would refuse her “help” and go about things her own way.  The characters know where they’re going, what they’re going to do, and will do it whether you give them permission to or not.  The characters make up the story as they go, and if ever they get stuck, they rely upon the imagination of their creator – the writer.

Writers using this second method often times turn out stories far different from their original idea.  And, while writing like this can be difficult, looking into a dark pit and not knowing where you’ll end up, it’s adventurous and exciting.  Who knew that writing a book could be as much fun as reading one – especially when, as the writer, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

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My second book, currently titled Remebering Jane, was written during numerous lunch breaks and in small snatches of time here and there when I found a moment to sit down and write.  Not all the writing was done at a desk, table or even somewhere you’d expect a writer to write.  Much of the story was written while stopped at red lights, or in waiting rooms.

After my first attempt at writing a novel, I decided that this time, I would do it right.  I researched the proper way to create characters, develop plot lines and even draw out a unfailing plot line.  I wrote pages upon pages of notes, filled notebooks with character descriptions, motivations and personality profiles.  I outlined the story from beginning to end.

I wrote Remembering Jane, beginning to end in less than two months.  It was a rough two months and many times I found myself questioning whether or not I had what it took to be a writer.  Was I good enough?  Could I do it?  With two small children at home depending on me, I couldn’t give up.  I pushed through every doubt, every moment that I suspected I had writers block, and I turned out a 60,000 word story.

Proud of myself, I quickly sent copies to my parents, my sister, my friends and eagerly awaited their responses.  I knew they’d be enthusiastic and though I had my doubts, thought for sure they’d like it.  After all, I liked it – didn’t I?

Within a month, they results were in.  I had a hit (with some modifications and a few minor adjustments.  Okay – a lot of edits).  But the point was – they liked the story.  It wasn’t going to be a best seller – not by any stretch of the imagination, but with some work, it could definitely sell. 

I spent a month editing, working out loose, and sagging plot lines and making the characters more real.  Without a second’s hesitation, I started the road to authorship…

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My first book has no name.  I’m not even entirely sure you can call it a book.  Finished at just over 15,000 words, it’s really quite pathetic.  Too long to be called a short story, too short to be a novel, I’m not sure where it stands.  The idea was hard come by, but after reading numerous Young Adult books (the best books for reading when you have little to no time for reading) I wanted to contribute something of my own to the genre. 

I spent weeks trying to decide what to write about, who the characters would be and what they would be doing.  All that thinking got me thinking – this is hard work.  Who knew? 

Finally, with a rough idea of what I wanted the main conflict in the story to be, I was ready to begin creating my characters.  That, I think, was even more difficult than coming up with the initial idea.  The problem wasn’t so much creating the characters, as coming up with clever names that really meant something.  Names that said something about the strength of personality in each of the characters.  To this day, I still don’t know if I succeeded.

Working directly on my PC, i began typing.  Page after page, line after line, the story came to life.  A girl named Hailey, moves from place to place with her widowed father, but finally end up in a small town deep in the moutains.  She gets a job, makes friends and everything is fine, until she starts having strange dreams.  Dreams about a witch and a magical crystal.  Feeling weird about it, she never says a word to her friends, but continues on, going to school, and working in the local grocery store.  Then on a field trip to the abandoned coal mines, she is confronted by her teacher, who turns out to be the witch from her dreams and is seeking the magical crystal – which Hailey of course has.  You get the point. 

All in all, it’s not a bad story, although it is missing a lot.  A lesson I have learned – Characters in books have much more than a single conflict within any given story.  A lot of times, as a reader, we read straight through conflicts without thinking twice about them – but as writers, we have to be very aware of each incident. 

As a new student in a High School, there are bound to be issues.  You don’t just show up and make friends and live happily ever after.  There’s always someone who doesn’t like you, or some guy you absolutely adore but can’t have.  There’s a subject you just don’t get, or a dance that you really want to attend – but your dad says no.  Millions of things could crop up.  You just have to know when to shove those conflicts in, and make sure there are just enough to keep it interesting.  A good book is like a recipe for the perfect apple pie.  You have to have enough apples, enough sugar, enough cinnamon and bake it for just the right amount of time.  Too little or too much of any one thing, and it’s ruined.

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