“I think I have a plan,” Character A said. 

But I didn’t know what his plan was. That’s where I got stumped this morning during my writing time. When I typed those words, I knew it was true for Character A  to have a plan in his mind. He’s a smart guy after all. He figures things out. He’s good at solving puzzles. But I’m not. For a few moments, I sat scratching my head and staring off into space–afraid that Character A’s plan would derail my writing session today, because I didn’t know what his plan was!

I stared at the Sailor Moon wall scroll next to my desk. I watched my rats snuggle in their house. I stared at the carpet. I listened to the “Skyrim OST” on my iTunes. Then, finally, it hit–his plan! I started typing as fast as my fingers could go, afraid I’d forget the snippets of Character A’s plan that had come to my feeble mind. Thus, the writing continued quite smoothly until I’d written over my daily 2,000 word goal. *Whew*. We made it to the other side of Character A’s plan.

Isn’t it awkward when your characters know more about what’s going on in a story than you do? After all, didn’t you design your characters? Didn’t they come from your head to begin with? How is it possible, you might ask, for a character to have a plan and you not know what it is?

That’s a hard question to answer. As I’ve written here before, I truly feel like stories are already created and complete before you start unearthing the words that go with them. That’s why I maintain that Character A had a plan and it was a good one–I just didn’t quite see it yet.

How do we discover the plans our characters have? I don’t always know. Sometimes I have to rewrite. Perhaps I didn’t get the story quite right on the first go-round. Other times, like this morning, I’m able to somehow pull all the strings together and figure it out with grand “Aha!” moments. It’s still hard, though, and if you’re not careful, being out of sync with your characters can unravel a whole scene or chapter.

My advice? Don’t rewrite until you’re absolutely sure you can’t reconcile a character’s words or action with what needs to happen next. In some cases, you may need to step away for a while. Go write something else. Take a break, then come back and see if you can go on. If you can’t, chances are you might need to rework the dialogue or an entire scene. Other times, you have an epiphany and can get right back to work without rewriting; you’ve figured it out! Woohoo!

Writing is harder than most people think. Even for those people out there that have natural talent, writing is a skill that must  be nurtured and flexed as often as can be managed. For me, the hardest part about writing is plotting. Characters come very naturally to me, for some reason, but plotting? Nope. Especially since I’m mostly a pantser, writing a detailed, complex, and connecting plot can be a great challenge. Hence the reason Character A can have some grand plan in mind but my poor brain is stuck trying to figure out what it is…

Do you have any particular writing areas that you struggle with? Share with us and tell us how you go about correcting or exercising that area.

Thanks for stopping by, as always!

 

~L.M.

When your characters have a plan, but you don’t know what it is…
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  • Very true. My characters often know how to do or being things that I am clueless about. If I can I do some research or walk away for a while until something stirs up. But sometimes I need them to do things that they are unsure of, and writing my way around that without having them break character is also fun and challenging.

    • Agreed! It is so fun sometimes when your characters realize something before you do. Then it’s like…AHHHH so that’s what it is! Thanks for stopping by, Katie!

  • I find this weird. After all, your characters are a reflection if you — your imagination. Your characters can’t be any more intelligent or creative than you are, ultimately.

    I remember my wife used to get mad at me when she would dream about me, and I would do something she didn’t like. A therapist told us that everything in a dream is you. Even the other people are still you. (So, it is not fair for my wife to be mad at me for something (s)he did….)

    Just like an actor can assume the identity of different characters, the writer does the same thing. But the characters don’t have a life of their own. They just live through the actor/writer. Ultimately, they are a reflection of the actor/writer.

    Unless you suffer from multiple personality disorder — which is another deal entirely.

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