November is just rolling along, isn’t it? I’ve been down for the count a lot, but at least I’m resting? Enough about me though – today we have J. Kathleen Cheney back with us! Remember she celebrated her special day with us earlier? This time it’s about books! 🙂
Sometimes They Come Out of Nowhere…
When I originally outlined the story behind my novel The Golden City, I had a woman–Oriana–in an uncomfortable situation: she’d survived an attempt to take her life, but couldn’t go to the police because she’s in the city illegally. My planned story revolved around her attempt to bring the man responsible to justice without the help of the law.
Then I started typing. Three paragraphs in, I had a nameless character walk on and begin asking Oriana some rather innocuous questions. He was supposed to spew out some plot exposition and then go away, never to be seen again. And about halfway through his spiel, I realized he should at least have a name. One name. So I gave in and named him Duilio.
I moved on. I typed a few more paragraphs, having Duilio natter on and on about a piece of art. And that’s when I realized he had an ulterior motive in being there. His inane chatter wasn’t as vacuous as it seemed. He was questioning her–because he wasn’t sure whether she was a victim or an accomplice.
And from there it spun out of control. I kept typing, by that time having gleefully abandoned my outline. (OK, I wasn’t gleeful. I was a bit perturbed.) I decided just to see where it went. And that’s how I ended up with The Golden City.
Now I’ve written stories before that don’t have a male lead, so I’m not sure why this one seemed to need Duilio. I suppose that things had simply gone so wrong for Oriana that I felt a bit sorry for her. I wanted her to have someone helping her out.
As a writer, sometimes the best ideas show up this way. You’ll be going along and blammo! There it is on the page. Sometimes the characters who pop up that way turn out to be the most fun. And that makes me wonder if my subconscious isn’t a better (or at least more enjoyable) storyteller than I am.
Of course, that’s a bit like saying that I’m going to let my dog Penny drive the car to doggy daycare. Penny often tries to get in the driver’s seat and I always make her get out of it. My first consideration is that she’s not licensed to drive in this state, nor is she insured. But there’s also the problem that she just doesn’t know what she’s doing behind the wheel. And then there’s that pesky lack of thumbs. (Note that I don’t mention letting her brother Al drive. No way that’s happening.)
Sure, I could let my subconscious drive all my writing. Unfortunately, I suspect that my subconscious, even though it might be enthusiastic, still has no thumbs.
So it’s a kind of balance, I suppose. I like listening to that crazy voice that drives me off my outlines and into strange waters. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes I end up in blind alleys. In the case of Duilio’s appearance, it was a gold mine, with a second book (The Seat of Magic) coming next summer and a third one in the works. But I still have to plan, too…
So what are some things that unexpectedly cropped up that worked for you?
As bonus incentive to answer Ms. Cheney’s question, she’s also offering a giveaway! Whee!