Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fun, Mysterious, or Just Plain Creepy?

By Pat Stoltey

Some of the most amazing things happen while we're writing. We might sit down to type a chapter that we've worked out in advance. An hour later, we create an unplanned scene that came from nowhere and might even take our characters in a different direction than we expected.

Some writers prefer to write from an outline. I've tried it, but my story never stays on track. My outline becomes a moving target, as dynamic as the novel manuscript. I'm a very fast typist, and it sometimes feels as though my fingers are way ahead of my brain. I love those moments, but I don't know how they happen.

My current novel-in-the-works is in the revision stage to fix a few plot problems that reared their ugly heads after I submitted to my critique group. The main character is a woman on the run. At the beginning of the story, she thinks she's merely leaving her husband and wants to make sure he can't follow her until she's ready to talk to him. Everything goes wrong, of course, and my character ends up running from bad guys, the police, and eventually, the FBI.

At one moment in the story's first draft, when I thought she was trapped and would probably end the scene in handcuffs, my character stepped it up a notch and got away. Well, good for her, I thought. But I don't know how I came up with the getaway idea or while it waited until I was typing to surface.

Another day I charged into a tense scene with one of my very bad guys in a very bad temper...and he dropped dead. I jerked my hands off the keyboard and read the scene again. Where did that come from? I have no idea, because it wasn't how I expected the scene to go.

Do you ever experience writing that seems to come from your fingers instead of your mind? Is the idea fun, mysterious, or just plain creepy?

13 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - And I thought it was just me! You are so right that strange things can happen when we're writing and most definitely, the most unusual sorts of plot twists and character development can, too. And actually, that's what I like about it. Writing is an organic process. Now, I use outlines, but like you, I'm no slave to them. In fact, the manuscript I've just finished and am now editing is a lot better because I didn't stay "married" to what I'd originally thought would be the story. Characters do that to you...

Eric said...

Great post. I experience this all the time. In one WiP, my MC actually killed his mother (albeit accidentally) and it literally left me stunned for a moment. It's an interesting and yet fun feeling when the writing moves around that way, huh?

GigglesandGuns said...

bout a month ago I was typing a scene that I wrote in my mind. When I was done the scene was different and there was new strong character present. It was way better than the plan so I kept both the scene and the character.
I admit is was a little bit creepy.

Joanne Kennedy said...

I'd call it creepy! Some of my writing doesn't seem to come from my brain OR my fingers - it comes straight from the characters, as if they're real and feding me stories from some other plane. I'm not a woo-woo kind of person, so it freaks me out a little. But it's also the fun part of writing. Who doesn't love surprises?!?!

Kay Theodoratus said...

Yeah, I'd call it creepy. Makes you wonder who else is in your head besides you.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I do outline, so if something brilliant hits while I'm writing, it's an act of God...

Marlena Cassidy said...

Hi Patricia!

I only ever outlined one novel, and it deviated so badly from the outline that I never did it again.

When I write and I get into the tempo of it, I feel like I tap into some sort of creative energy that knows exactly how it wants to come out on the page. I'm just the medium it happens to choose at the moment. It's fun, in a scary kind of way.

Jan Morrison said...

Yes, I didn't even know my first mystery was a mystery. I thought it was a locally-set feel-good novel about a young artist. Nope, not even close. If I knew I'd get bored. Or that's what I imagine. I'll never know though.
Jan Morrison

Karen Duvall said...

I sell my books on proposal now so I have no choice but to outline as far as a synopsis goes. But I don't have to stick to it, and my editor totally gets that. It's the nature of storytelling.

While I was writing the book I just turned in, I was almost to the end when I realized my villain had disguised herself as another character at the beginning of the book. It added a whole new dimension to both the plot and her character. That was unexpected and a real boon to the story.

Of course I don't believe my characters have any say in how I write them because it's I'm the one who calls the shots. But my subconscious comes up with ideas I'm unaware of until it decides to reveal them to me. I love when that happens. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

It really is good for us to hear these stories and know we're not alone. As for my own novel in the works, I wish my subconscious had done a little better job with my plot. It has enough holes to be a hunk of Swiss cheese. :)

Dean K Miller said...

Ever consider that we are merely telling their stories, not creating them? Could explain a lot of things. I've asked my characters to tell me how they are getting out of a scene, and get a clear response within seconds.

Jeff Darling said...

I am with Karen. It is subconscious, but that is the woo-woo feeling. Your subconscious can work on a character, creating expectations of what 'they' would do. It is the funnest part of the process. It would not be so expected by publishers if they didn't know it is the creative fulcrum.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pat, by the time I actually sit down to write a manuscript, the story has been teasing my brain for years. As such, it spills from my subconscious to my keyboard and lands on my screen. To me, it's easier to let my characters write the story, then go back and see where they took me. As such, my outlines usually take place during the editing stage to make sure everything works.