When Characters do the unexpected

So I thought I knew where my story was going. I had a working outline but I left plenty of wiggle room for the characters to make their own way.

Then something happened. The woman my MC was seeking just showed up. Came to him. It wasn’t something I intended to write, it just happened, and it changed the course of the story.

At first I struggled as to whether to keep it or to rewrite and go the direction I intended, but the direction I intended seemed forced and unnatural, so I kept going and it seemed to be working out.

Then, because the woman was now with my MC something else unexpected happened. My MC killed the villain. Just shot him. Oh, it was definitely what he would do, it worked with his character but it just blew up my plot completely.

What the hell dude? He was supposed to stick around until the end!

So this is a dilemma for those writers who don’t adhere to a strict outline, and fly by the seat of their pants. And honestly, now that I’m unsure where the story is going again, my momentum is slowing down. I’m still thinking about scrapping my last two chapters and going back to where I know the way.

But this is also where your own writing can get crazy awesome. Reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” recently, King’s description of a storytelling as uncovering a fossil resonated with me. If you try to control the story too much, you can end up with a flat story.

But I also know from experience, if you fly by the seat of your pants exclusively, you could end up flying for a very long, messy time.

This story is a challenge for me. It’s darker than anything I’ve written in a long time. It’s complex and I’m not sure about anyone’s motivation but my MC, and even he needed some coaxing to give it up.

But I think it has the potential be horrific and beautiful. To truly disturb and yet offer a seed of redemption. It is a story about chaos and maybe I need to let it take me down the same rabbit hole my MC is falling down, where I won’t know what I’m going to find until there’s a gun in his face.

If the hole goes on too long or ends up in a dead end, I can always go back to plotting.

Tell me your thoughts! Do your characters surprise you and what do you do when they mess up your tidy story?


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