I’ve often compared being an author to being the God of a fictional realm. And to some degree that is true, but it doesn’t mean we’re almighty. Often times the story you start writing won’t turn out to be that story. It’ll change or need to be changed. The personalities of the characters will act and react in ways that you didn’t think they would, or you find yourself not liking where the story goes. No matter what you do, this story isn’t going to go the way you imagined. And when that happens, you need to rethink the story a bit.

It’s kind of like one of those dance routines on a dance show (I used to watch So You Think You Can Dance). Often with those dance routines, they’re trying to tell a story. In this metaphor, you and your story are working together, using words and images as dance moves to entrance the reader and get them to watch the whole routine, aka read the whole story. But of course no routine starts out perfect and along the way there needs to be changes. And sometimes those changes need to be rather dramatic if the entire routine is going to work. Maybe its a few moves that need to be changed, other times the costumes need to be changed, and every now and then the song needs to be changed as well. Otherwise this story just won’t work.

Now some of you may be thinking, “He’s treating the story like a living person.” Well, why not? If the Bible is the living Word of God, and if the Constitution is a living document, why can’t a story being written in a notebook (paper or digital kind) be alive either? Many authors know what I’m talking about, they feel that the story is a being working with them as it gets laid down on paper, that it is having as much say as what’s put down and what’s not. Rather than resist it and insist that the story obey its Creator, it’s better oftentimes to just listen to the story and see what it says.

I had this situation occur to me on the short story I’m working on now. I finished the outline thinking it was going to turn out great. Unfortunately after ten-thousand words I started to realize that this story was not what I wanted. I mean on the outline the story was still good, but while writing it out I just couldn’t get into it. At the same time, I could hear the story in my mind, speaking to me. It said I shouldn’t give up on it (like I would do that, this is a good story in concept) but that I should explore a new angle for it.

So I took a break. I thought about it. And I found a new angle to tell the story with. I wrote out an outline today and got a couple pages in without any trouble. It’s a good start, though how well that goes for the rest of the story depends on a number of things. Like how I feel about the story. And how the story feels about the direction we’re going in.

Writing a story, like making a movie or performing a play or producing an album, is a collaboration, and all involved need to be in sync in order to make the story truly work. Sometimes that means acknowledging that, maybe even if only subconsciously in your mind, your story is alive and you need to work with it, not just on it. The results that occur when you do are truly spectacular.

Do you ever feel like your collaborating with another person when you’re working on a story?

What’s that like for you?

Oh, and an update on the audio book of Reborn City: I have posted it on ACX, the company I wrote an article about last year. I’ve also contacted a few narrators I’ve found on the site who I think may be able to give that right touch of magic for RC. Hopefully at least one will respond within the next few days, and then we can get to work on producing some audio book magic. Exciting right?

Of course if you want to get some RC action now, you can check out its page here and then find links to where it’s available. Enjoy!

  1. It happens to me all the time that I plan a story, or at least imagine it a certain way, but along the lines it changes and certain things need to happen even though I never intended them to. Also, my characters have a mind of their own. I seriously sat in front of my screen and thought “that is such a dumb thing to do,” yet I couldn’t bring myself not to write it.

    • It’s like in the films. You as the audience know going into that room there could be something nasty waiting, but your characters don’t know that. They have minds of their own and they need to figure things out themselves.
      Besides, if nothing bad ever happened in a story or the characters never defied your imagination, what fun would the story be?

  2. “He’s treating the story like a living person”..

    Yes!!! Exactly! In my experience the best stories seem to come from the nether and when you’re done you blink at them and say “I wrote that?” At least for me. The ones I struggle with and control always feel less, somehow.

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