28
Feb

How Characters can Highjack A Story

 

I’m never surprised what my characters highjack the story. I follow their lead until the scene plays out. When this happens, sometimes it takes the story in surprising directions. It is most unnerving and sometimes I have to ask, “How do I get him out of this predicament?” Of course, that’s often when the mischievous character decides to take a vacation and leaves me trying to resolve how to get the character out of the muddle they just created.

My parents used to tell me that as a toddler, I buried my toys in the sand and my dad had to dig around and try to find them. Aha! The proverbial lightbulb flashed over my head! What if years ago, a toddler buried something that wasn’t found until now it it becomes the clue to solving a murder today?

With that concept in mind, I started writing my first novel. I thought it would be a story about a divorcee who wants to solve her father’s cold-case murder, and something she buried as a baby would reappear and be relevant to solving the murder. Quite without intending it to happen, a tuxedo cat (Thumper) jumped into the tale, took over, and became the main character as he used his ancestor’s memories to help her solve the case. Black Cat’s Legacy was born. This led to Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, and Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary. (Available at Amazon in paperback and e-book)

Some people ask, “What do you do when you have writer’s block?” When this happens to me, I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I conjure up several alternatives, pick one and run with it.

Here’s an example: Let’s imagine I want to write a mystery. The main character is a private detective who I eventually plan to get involved in a murder case. The story starts with my main character innocently frying bacon one Saturday morning. What happens next? What’s the worst thing that can happen? The skillet catches fire.

She pulls the fire extinguisher off the wall. What’s the worst thing that can happen? The extinguisher is empty!

She grabs her cell phone to call the fire department. What happens next? What’s the worst thing that can happen? Dead battery!

She runs, screaming, to the front door. “Help! Fire, fire! Help!” She flings open the door.

A handsome neighbor appears and puts out the fire; 275 pages later they have fallen in love, the killer never appears, and eventually our characters ride off into the sunset… A love story…Well, you get the picture.

The characters in this illustration just ran away from me. I had planned this scene to be about a mystery, with a kitchen fire, and intended to have the killer sneak up behind the lady at the stove, but the characters had another idea and a handsome neighbor appears, instead. My 30-second characters took control and turned my illustration upside down into a love story.

When I write, I’m never totally in control. I’m sort of along for the ride.

Comments

  1. Ellen Cardwell says:

    Run some more!

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