Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Losing Control...Yeah, baby!

As a writer, I’m always amazed when I tell other authors my characters tell me what to write...and some of those same authors look at me askance. And say something like, “Well, don’t let them” or “you’re the one in control” or “that’s ridiculous, if you follow your outline, you won’t lose control”.

Okay. I have a couple comments and questions—

Why would I NOT let them tell me what to write? It’s their story. Sure, sometimes I need to tell Mr. Hotness it’s time to rein in the lustful stares until he’s actually said ‘hello’ to his sweet thang. And more than once, I’ve suggested to Sweet Thang that perhaps she let Mr. Hotness say ‘hello’ and quit playing so hard to get. But all in all, it never hurts to see where they’d like to take the story. That’s what the DEL button is for.

Characters are like children. You birth them, help them grow. But eventually, a good mommy author gives them their wings and lets them fly. And just like real kids, sometimes mommy has to bail them out of jail when they make poor choices.

If you follow your outline, you won’t lose control. I disagree. The best stories I’ve ever written are the ones I lost control over. Not a loss of control like, OMG, I just hit a patch of ice and I’m sailing over a cliff loss of control. But rather, Hey, what are you two lovebirds up to…wait, this works! Usually it’s my mischievous alpha male hero who wrassles with me over control. Besides, why wouldn’t I let him try? He knows who has ultimate control over the DEL button. And it ain’t him.

I don’t have an outline. I know. Freaky stuff.

Writing is about creativity. I let (arguably) creative genius have its way. Sometimes I hit the mark, sometimes I even like what I write. And there are times when that stinkin’ DEL button comes in mighty handy, much to the relief of my writer friends who have to read my genius.

If you’re a reader in the midst of a captivating story, you’re probably not reading what the author originally planned. And I can guarantee you every single writer at Romance Writers Behaving Badly will tell you writing is a journey and sometimes the story takes detours, hits potholes, acquires a dent or two, has a flat tire but ultimately, it reaches its final destination. And the best feeling in the world is typing: VALERIE MANN


Vivien Jackson said...

Right on.

steph beck said...

Oh Val, you crack me up. I try to outline on occasion and it helps, but sometimes those characters really do know what they're talking about. As they evolve on paper, of course they become more than what you originally planned, so letting them take the lead isn't always a bad if they end up being much too naughty (I draw the line at donkeys) or gasp, a wee bit boring (my characters seem to like to bake cookies too often) then there is that magical delete key :)

Great blog :)

pj schnyder said...

So true! I do start with an outline but once in a while my character hijack the scene. What do I do? I rewrite the outline. ;)

Valerie Mann said...

PJ, that's so funny! I do the same thing when I actually do attempt an outline. Sort of like going back and changing your answers in a test. LOL

jennifer said...

Outline? What's an outline? Within the first scene I'm usually scrapping the thing. My characters have TOTAL control. Ugh!

Kate Richards said...

It's so cute, I can hear our conversations in the blog! As a fellow character captive, I agree with you as you know lol,face it, my characters are MUCH more interesting people than I am. Do you know there are authors who write the blurb first? I've run across some and I have no idea how they can be so sure it's accurate. Different styles!

Hales said...

LOL you're so adorable :) I know I am told the same thing. I took a plotting course taht was 28 days and thought in 28 days instead of plotting I'll be damn near done :) But. I do have a sort of outline in my head in some odd way so I end up being a panslotter a bit of both although the insides aren't clear if I wake up in the mid of the night with a hero yelling at the heroine you're damn skippy I pick up that pad and write it down. Other than that just like in real life I'm a free spirit my characters are free ones too that plague me, annoy me, love me and well I have to admit I love the fuckers too...every single one, hero, heroine, hell even the villains and villanesses if that's a word. :) As for me being bad I reserve that for in private!

Valerie Mann said...

Oh. I'm a panslotter. Yay, there's a word for me. And I take a long time writing because I accumulate a lot of the character's dialogue and scenes in my head and then piece them together. I can't just sit and write. Ain't happening.

Savanna Kougar said...

Valerie, great blog!

panslotter... lol... one more on board, here. My heroines and heroes run the show and I never know where they're going to take me... and some like baking cookies, too! and my heroes seem to enjoy crooning songs to their heroines...

yeah, outline... what's that? it would be just one more annoyance and a sheer waste of my time.

The Sweater Curse said...

I'm a planner. I like to have an outline. However, I usually end up with more than one. Actually when the story is "working" I end up with more than a few.
It's a, "Okay, I've gotten this far, where to now." sort-a-thing.
I agree, when its working you loose control. Its not a safe place for me, so I lull myself into a false sense of security by pretending to have a plan.
As writers, we need to find what works. This is what works for me.

Dominique Eastwick said...

Val, I know alittle whats in your head there is no controlling that LOL... No I can't control mine either if I did it would be chaos and mine never ends of where I think it will either.

Stay out of control girl, it works for you.

Cynthia Sax said...

I know that if my characters don't take over the writing at about chapter three (or after 1,000 words in a short), then the story isn't working. Maybe I have the wrong characters or the wrong plot or...

I shouldn't have to force my characters to do anything.

Robert C Roman said...

I always have an outline. Of course, only rarely does it get written down anywhere outside my head. When it DOES get written down outside my head, it's usually in the form of pseudo-heiroglyphs, each one representing a key scene in some way. For those of you I'm gonna meet at PhilCon or elsewhere, I can try to scare an old one up; non-writers think they're proof of insanity, writers think they're hilarious. Mostly because I can't draw.

Observer - "Why is there a sparkler, a belly ring, and a flower here?"
Me - "That's a magic wand, a hydrogen atom, and a bomb."
O - "OK, it's still clear as mud. What kind of scene has a magic wand, a hydrogen atom, and a bomb? Is Tenly nuking something again?"
M - "No, Christina May is using the magic of orbital bombardment."

Yeah. That conversation actually occurred when someone saw my heiroglyph outline. And yeah, I was dead serious. And worst of all, the characters there *still* took over and went in a different direction that I thought. What's bad is that I lose rational arguments with my characters.

Me - "She's your romantic rival. You *can't* like her."
Tenly - "As if. 'rival' implies she's competition."
M - "She wants to sleep with your husband."
T - "One, 'consort' not 'husband', two, let her."
M - "Buh?!"
T - "I need an heir. I'm sterile. She's not. I marry her, she sleeps with him, i've got an heir, and Bob's yer uncle."
M - "Fine, see if I care!" *throws up hands, writes it her way*

Yeah. The major plot points wind up happening, but getting there rarely takes the course I think it will. And it is almost always the result of a character taking control. That living, breathing, *taking control* aspect is what tells me the character has gained a third dimension rather than being a cardboard cutout following a script.

Valerie Mann said...

Yep, I think that's the main reason I let the characters do their thing. It's fascinating to watch them evolve and become "real" to me. Only a fellow author would understand that feeling. LOL

pj schnyder said...

Bobby, as your lil sis, I love you. But dude, the conversation you have with your characters give me fear.

Savanna Kougar said...

Robert, oh, I do understand the conversation. Although, my characters usually take a more tactful approach... they know their author... lol...

"orbital bombardment" ~ love it!

Faith said...

From time to time my characters have to be reined in or they get themselves in trouble, lol.

Becca Dale said...

As always, it looks like you are in the thick of things, Val. You know I am the same way with my characters. I swear I am marshmallow fluff when it comes to them. I have scrapped more than one carefully planned storyline because the characters refused to fall in step with the program. I have even had to change the hero or heroine to a different one because the first two didn't like each other.

My outlines never seem to make it to paper (not even in hieroglyphic form though that does sound interesting, Robert) but I must have an overall concept even if my characters tell me it won't work and I have to revamp it. When I wake up in the night with my hero shouting in my head and demanding I make it work his way, or my heroine screaming that the hero is an arrogant ass that makes her nuts while she expounds on why he is so absolutely perfect for such an F'ing dick, I know I have it right.

Glad I am not alone in my insanity.