Characters, Chili, and Changes to Your Work in Progress

What surprises are your characters cooking up?

I went to the grocery store this afternoon with the idea to pick up some fruit, because I had very little produce in the house and I felt like I should get some, as I really love fruit. Always have. I call it nature’s candy, because it is, when you think about it. Yummy, healthy candy.

Anyway, I wasn’t planning to cook dinner. I was going to fix a sandwich or something easy and quick, like I usually do, because cooking for one is just…. it kind of depresses me when I think about it too much, and I’m a busy girl. Got lots of stuff to be doing. Hence, quick dinner.

Or so I thought. I ran into my friend Kate, with whom I do some volunteer work on a regular basis. We walked into the store just at the same moment. It was nice…. We shopped together and chatted a bit. She said she was going to throw some kind of chicken pasta together for dinner. We got to talking about meat, and she said she loves how ground meat smells when it’s cooking. And that made me think: “CHILI. I need to make some chili. It really had been ages since I’ve cooked something.” So I changed my dinner plans, and while I bought some fruit, I also bought the fixings for chili and made that. Yum.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WRITING???

I think it demonstrates an important point in relation to writing, a point that those who don’t write don’t realize and those who do write can’t afford to ignore. The simple, chance act of running into Kate changed everything I saw happening in relation to my evening (at least foodwise.) That small change, where my meal was concerned, threw everything out of whack from what I had envisioned. I had a conversation with my roommate (“you’re COOKING?”) that I wouldn’t have had, for instance.

Well, when I write a novel, my characters have a tendency to do the same thing: force subtle changes. One small thing will happen that I didn’t really plan for, and I don’t see that as critical when I put it on the page. Then that small thing necessitates a larger change from what I saw happening, and suddenly, the novel is heading somewhere totally different from where I thought it was. My roommate often asks me, “You’re the author so you know the story, right?”

Nope. That’s one of my favorite things about writing. I DON’T know what’s going to happen. I love the adventure of discovering the story as I go. So, remember to be open to the “ground meat remark” moments in your writing. Don’t be afraid of them, and please, don’t resist them! My characters have a great knack for bringing about changes I didn’t expect in order to swing the novel where it needs to go, when I don’t know the proper direction ahead of time. Yours will too, I promise. Let your characters guide you, as I like to say, and your novel, really, will write itself.

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13 responses to “Characters, Chili, and Changes to Your Work in Progress

  1. That’s my second favorite thing about writing, the first being editing. I love starting off with one idea and ending up with something entirely different, but far better than what I originally started with. I can’t wait to find out what emerges from NaNoWriMo!

  2. You’ve inspired me to start today’s writing and see where the characters want to go.

  3. You’ve now made me want to write, and eat. Thanks on both counts!

  4. My characters lead me around willy nilly sometimes. *sigh* As I started the second draft of my WIP they told me they needed a dog. So, I wrote a dog into the story. I have no idea what will happen with this animal, but he’s there for a reason. I’m looking forward to discovering what changes he brings to the whole dynamic.

    • sounds like fun! good luck and enjoy the discovery process! i love animals in fiction. one of my favorite characters loves animals…. he’s the youngest prince and loves his hounds and horse πŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: Creative writing is like a box of chocolates: how to “git” what you want from that box | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  6. It’s so true. My characters take me on a wild ride. And I can’t wait to see what happens each and every time. Great post.

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