Recently, my partner and I decided to add a wildlife area to our garden, including a pond which we hope will make the perfect place for frogs, toads and newts to hang out. We’ll also be introducing some fish and doing our best to protect them from the herons. With all the great weather we’re having here in England at the moment, it’s the perfect time for the project.
As my partner’s an engineer, he decided to draw out a plan for the wildlife area. He spent a long time on his sketches, making sure he’d planned out all the details, complete with a cartoon fish who looked very happy to be there. All the pieces we needed to construct the area were delivered in a safe way to our home and, this weekend, work started.
But, when everything was lined up in the garden, it became clear that, although the drawings were great and the key elements would work, in practice, there was another solution, one that would look better and be better for the wildlife. That solution would never have come up until all the pieces could be seen in front of us.
So, the plan was adapted and work continued.
I like to have plans for my writing and used to stick to them religiously. But the problem was that I’d reach a point where plot was driving my story not the characters. No one likes to be forced to do something they wouldn’t do, especially fictional characters.
I had rebels on my hands.
When characters become people, they take on a life of their own, they become unpredictable and the only way to write authentically is to embrace them. A plan is a map not a blueprint. Just as a driver will change directions if a road is blocked or a scenic route looks preferable, a writing plan can be adapted as the characters and the story grow.
Characters will go down the odd cul-de-sac and ramble on but they can also open up new routes, bringing surprises for both the writer and reader.
If you write prose, let your characters take over for a day.
There’s nothing to lose. If it goes wrong, like a driver, you can always turn back. If they make a mess, it can always be tidied up.
Enjoy the surprises!