When your imaginary friends surprise you

Some people make the false assumption that, as writers, we have total control over the worlds and characters we create. They’re our creations, after all. I have not found this to be true.

In Whispers of Death, a character made a surprise appearance in the climactic battle scene that I was totally not expecting. As I wrote the scene, the character just showed up out of the blue. I hadn’t planned it, but there he was. The same sort of thing happened in my writing yesterday. One of my characters took me by surprise by showing me she had more to her than what was on the surface.

Maybe it’s just the pantser in me. I don’t plan a whole lot of my story. The big points, yes, but the path from Point A to Point B to Point C is up in the air when I get started. Sometimes the points change mid-story as well. New ideas pop up that make the story richer–ideas that were nowhere in sight when the story began.

Even some of the short stories I write have these surprise changes. The characters make decisions that alter the course of the story, and I have to go with it. Because let’s face it, the really interesting characters know how to improve a plot better than I do. I might as well learn from the experts. They’re the ones living it, after all.

As a relatively inexperienced writer (I’ve written loads of poetry and many short stories/flash fictions, but only the one novel-length work so far), I can’t speak for the rest of us I guess. I mean, maybe planners don’t have characters that go haywire on them. Maybe they have the secret to making unruly characters behave and follow the script.

But honestly? I kinda dig the surprises. It makes the story as interesting to write as (I hope) it is to read.


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