Writing Tip – Sticking to Your Plot (Or not)!

Neridah had another writing question for me this week.

Sometimes when I have written a structured Plot Diagram and Chapter Outline for longer books, when I sit down to actually write it, some of my characters start to do things outside of these carefully made plans. This sounds crazy and I spend a fair bit of time trying to reign them back in or I go back to the Chapter Outline and modify it. In your opinion is this normal for writers?

Taupo BayNeridah, I have to assure you that you are not crazy and you are definitely not alone. Characters often start to develop a mind of their own and create dilemmas for us.

I find that when characters take me in a completely new direction it’s usually because I’ve got to know them better and they are telling me, “This is what I would really do if I were a real person. This is how I would really act.”

So in my opinion, this scenario is quite normal for writers – especially those who know their characters well or are getting to know them better.

I’m not sure what other people think about this, but my advice would be to embrace the actions of contrary characters – let them take you in the direction they want to go. Allow their world to be turned on its axis.

If you think that the direction your character is heading will add tension or conflict or enhance your story in some other way then go with it. If that means you have to adjust your plot outline then that’s what I would do.

Unknown-6I had an extreme case of this with my YA thriller series that I was awarded my May Gibbs Fellowship for.  One of my minor characters got so active and rebellious that she has ended up with a book of her own.

Writing a novel is constant process of evolution. As you progress, characters change, plots change and even you as a writer can change.

In some respects, a character is like an adventurous child – you have to give them the freedom to explore.

But unlike a child, your character should be encouraged to venture into danger. The more danger, the more at risk they are, the better.

Neridah, I hope this answers your question.

Have fun with your characters – let them loose, I say:)

If anyone would like to share their opinion or experience, feel free to comment at the end of this post. If you have a writing question of your own to ask, you can also use the comments section.

Thanks for your great questions Neridah.

Happy writing:)

Dee

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11 thoughts on “Writing Tip – Sticking to Your Plot (Or not)!

  1. Hi Dee, phew, that’s a relief, I’m not crazy. It is annoying though that I have gone to all that effort to plot and do my chapter outlines and yet the best laid plans go astray. I just can’t help it when I sit down to write it. I have, however, just written a series of three middle fiction stories (around 15,000 words each) and I decided to let them run free and it was a much more rewarding experience. So thanks for your help and wise words Dee:-)

  2. None of my stories have ever ended up the way I thought they would when I started. The plot/characters take of lives of their own and pretty soon, I’m also tumbling down that rabbit hole–wondering what on earth might happen next.

  3. That reminds me of my two characters Molly and Wadi-Wadiin my MG manuscript, it was all supposed to be about Molly but Wadi-Wadi came along and ran circles around her! It ended up he became the hero and Molly HIS sidekick.

  4. You are definitely not crazy, Neridah:)

    The best laid plans often do go astray don’t they? So pleased to hear that about your new series – it is definitely a lot of fun and surprising for the writer too when we give our characters free rein:)

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  5. Hi Tonya,

    That’s exactly what it feels like doesn’t it? Like you’re tumbling down a rabbit hole and you don’t know where you’ll end up.

    Great analogy:)

    Dee

  6. Isn’t it amazing the way that happens, Vicki?

    Sometimes it’s not till you’re part way through the manuscript before you realise who the main character really is:)

    Love the discoveries you make as you write.

    Molly and Wadi-Wadi both sound like interesting characters:)

    Dee

  7. Isn’t it amazing the way that happens, Vicki?

    Sometimes it’s not till you’re part way through the manuscript before you realise who the main character really is:)

    Love the discoveries you make as you write.

    Molly and Wadi-Wadi both sound like interesting characters:)

    Dee

  8. I think that a great story almost always needs to have a character to drive the plot. It isn’t always bad to give up part of the story line when it fits better with a certain character to change the action. As long as the story returns to its original ending point, it will be fine.

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