I was working on The Horse Story the other day (not the actual title, but it’ll do for the purposes of our discussion) and, as I mentioned before, I don’t plot things out in advance in great detail.
I came up with the basic idea for The Horse Story about 10 years ago. Three or four years ago I fleshed it out: Came up with the main characters, drew up a list of possible incidents that could occur during the unfolding of the story (it has a strong linear storyline: Our
guys gals are trying to achieve Objective X, so the plot hinges around whatever obstacles get thrown in their way).
Our gals consist of four YA girls: The Leader, who is somewhat brusque and standoffish but is smart and competent; The Focal Character, who is the 2nd-in-command, almost as smart and equally as competent (the story unfolds through her POV); and The Comic Reliefs, who are there just because the main two heroines can’t do everything by themselves.
The number had to be held down to 4 for plot constraints: More than 4 would be unlikely given the circumstances of the book, fewer than 3 would make the objective impossible to achieve.
I had always envisioned The Leader and The Focal Character making a Grand Heroic Stand at the end of the story, then tying everything up with a neat little bow. And it was a pretty good scene: Thrilling, scary, heroic, you’d come away really admiring them for what they did.
But when I was roughly 50%-60% of the way through the story, I was writing a scene where the Bad Guy has forced a move on our gals and our gals respond by continuing to try to achieve Objective X.
The Leader charges the Bad Guy in order to buy more time for The Focal Character and The Comic Reliefs to escape and continue their quest for Objective X.
And suddenly I found myself writing a scene where The Leader does not get away.
She’s caught. Imprisoned. No way is she going to be able to join The Focal Character for the big finale.
What’s more, now The Focal Character has to actually deal with The Comic Reliefs, and that means they aren’t just walking jokes anymore, they’ve got to be actual living, breathing characters with independent hearts and minds.
And all of a sudden I’m off the range and out into unexplored territory and while I think I know where all this is heading, I gotta admit I don’t have clue flippin’ one what’s gonna happen when I write the next scene.
And it gives me chills -- the good kind, the goosebumpy kind, the kind that means I can’t cruise on autopilot but gotta really let these characters live and breathe and grow.
It’s always a blast when this happens.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
Update Oct. 16, 2011: Since making this post, I’ve enjoyed another flash of insight, a potential way to get The Leader back in the story. It involves a logical twist by the law involving her after she’s arrested, another logical twist by herownsef to get away from them, and because of that, it sparks a thought in the law’s head that leads them to the clue that will bust The Bad Guy.
Will I actually write it out that way?
But it sure gives me a new option to work with…