1. vinniram
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    vinniram Member

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    characters who force your plot to change

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by vinniram, Feb 2, 2010.

    I just lost 10 000 words of quite good writing because I realized, while at 30 000 words cumulative, that 10 000 words earlier my character had made a decision (to run off and try to help someone he had met only once, who had decided to ring him at 1am) which he definately would NOT make.

    I'd love to hear other people's experiences with this kind of thing happening. I think the lesson I've learned is - don't try to twist characters into conforming to a plot, rather forcibly make the plot conform to the characters and what they would really, honestly do.

    This is a basic lesson I should've learned a long time ago, but I'm glad I lost 10 000 words of good writing in a way. It will reinforce in my mind that I can NEVER ignore my characters, or it will just lead to massive wastes of time and energy when I have to revise huge chunks.
     
  2. cboatsman
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    cboatsman Senior Member

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    I apologize if I misunderstood your post, but here we go.

    You first say that the reason you are "dumping" 10k words worth of writing is because your character made a decision that he definitely would not make. Also known as, you are unwilling to let your character develop into a breathing entity. You have given him a set of rules that they must abide by in your story, or they can kick rocks. In this case, he broke one of your rules and now you're trashing hard work.

    Then you say the lesson you've learned is to make the plot conform to the characters and what they do, rather than alter the characters to conform to the plot. Well, aren't you effectively altering the characters to conform to your plot right now by dumping the last 10k words and rewriting them because said character made a decision you feel he never would have made? Well, with all due respect, your story flourished 10,000 words later with that decision being made so why go back on it?

    I understand you may want the perfect story, and you do not want to stray from what you original intended, but the beauty of writing and development of your story is that sometimes you find that something develops you never intended. Sometimes your characters as they develop will bite back. You just sent them on a 5,000 mile journey to rediscover themselves and all they got was a lousy t-shirt? Well, pardon mua for deciding to break your rules of who I should help and why I decide to do that.

    Lastly, but most importantly, you say that you've learned you should never ignore your characters. Again, perhaps you are ignoring your character right now by not letting him develop naturally. Instead of trashing 10,000 words of hard work, if the "damage" as you call it is that irreversible, why not develop on that idea? Why not further develop why the character made that decision? What if he made that decision because a long time ago he met someone who he didn't know that well, but at the time had no one else to turn to for help and when shut down by said person it hurt him. Well, he remembered that, and when he made that decision to help this guy at 1am he remembered how bad it hurt him when he felt like he had no one else to turn to. So he decides to help him. He swore to never turn a stranger away so mercilessly as he once was.

    I don't know your character, you do, and thus only you can honestly admit if trashing the 10,000 words was the right thing to do. However, please keep in mind that good stories and characters live and breathe just as you and I. They should be given the freedom to develop themselves, not forced to develop within your set of rules.

    All that being said I hope you have recovered your work in one way or another and your story is on its way to being complete. :)

    Caleb
     
  3. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    This has happened to me too. Most recently one of my secondary characters ended up becoming the protagonist. Who knew. Unfortunately this creates a whole new series of problems for me as the story is supposed to be about the original protagonist, but the new one is just so much more fun to write. It changed the whole story though, to tell it from his point of view. It's a whole new angle I hadn't considered before.

    This is what I love about writing. Sometimes the characters or the stories take on a life of their own.
     
  4. vinniram
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    vinniram Member

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    thanks for both of your replies.

    @ cboatsman:

    it's true that I could have let my novel flourish in that way. But, I feel now that I was backing myself into a plot corner in making it progress that way. I cut and pasted the 10 000 words into a separate file and kept it in case I could use it somehow again. Then I rethought my plot, and outlined up to about 3/4ths of my novel. Since then, I have rewriten the 10 000 words going in the new plot direction, and am now up to 45,000 words and no signs of stopping :) I feel I made the right decision, but your advice is also very potent - in the future, I will consider organic twists the plot takes very seriously :)
     
  5. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    If I found that I needed my character to make a descition he or she would not normally make, my first impulse would be to figure out why he or she is suddenly willing to do that.

    Usually, it helps to write that same question into the story: Whenever I find myself asking "Why the hell did he do that?" I tend to have the character also ask: "Why the hell am I doing this?" Or I have one of the other characters point that out, and so on. In other words, if I find something odd that doesn't fit in, I like to have my characters acknowledging that it's odd and doesn't fit in.

    In doing that, it's easier to find the reason for this break of character, which makes it less of a mistake on my part and more a piece of interesting characterization or even an important plot point.
     

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