First off, since it’s Memorial Day here in the USA, I have to give a blogosphere shout out to the men and women who are willing to defend this country so I can sit comfortably in front of my computer and write posts about anything I want. I don’t agree with all the wars my country has been involved in the last decade or so, but I do respect people who are willing to put their lives on the line for me. Thanks my military peeps!
Now onto the quote. You know I love me some Ray Bradbury quotes, and I stumbled across another one while running around on the internet. Here it be:
First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
Seems so simple, but it’s so true. I’m a big outliner when it comes to writing stories, and one of the downsides of that style is a tendency to want to follow your outline. But guess what? Sometimes your characters have other plans in mind and take you down paths you didn’t expect—if you let them.
Take Luke Skywalker for example. He just thought he had his adventures pretty much figured out working with the Rebellion to fight the Evil Empire. But then he gets this vision to head to this dingy, swamp planet called Dagobah where he learns skills that will ultimately help him accomplish his original goal.
That’s why it’s good to let your characters take the lead. Your outlining or planning never goes to waste. You may have created a roadmap to get from Phoenix to NYC, and you still end up in NYC by the end of the trip, just not in the way you thought and definitely not in the way you expected.
Realizing that originally my novel SHADE was far too long, especially when it came to traditional pub (I think it was 150,000 words then), I cut it in half. It was hard to do, as there were many things I had to rework, but I still did it. I let my characters lead in finishing off Book 1, and had to change things up for Book 2. Because of that dramatic change, however, one of my favorite secondary characters was born, something that never would have happened. It just seemed more natural for the MC to run into this new character, and I let new character lead the way and the overarching story has taken an interesting turn.
You may have to spend a draft or two getting to know your characters, but once you’ve gotten to know them, let them lead. And you follow right behind, taking notes.
Do you agree with Mr. Bradbury? Do you let your characters take the lead? What do you do to figure out what your MC wants? Are you good at following?
8 thoughts on “Monday’s Writerly Quote”
I agree with that quote. My heroes tend to take the lead a lot of the times, which designates my outline (as you said) to a vague roadmap. I set up the scenario and know where the exit to the next section is, but I let the characters decide on how to get there. Almost like they’re actors being given a prompt for an improv performance.
Oooh, I like that analogy. Improv performance. 🙂
Yup, seems pretty logical. Although, doing that sometimes can get your characters in tricky situations (ie the meereenese knot in GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire).
But tricky situations make for the best storytelling. Argh, I need to get on reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I have it. I don’t know what my delay is.
This is SO how I write. My characters do all the talking. I am useless without them. Oh! And three cheers for the U.S of A!!
Hip-hip-hooray! 🙂 It’s nice though, right, that the characters can take the lead. 🙂
My characters do indeed take the lead – every once in a while I need to rein them in, but more often than not they’re the ones telling me that such-and-such is *not* going to work, and can I please give them better material?? 🙂
Haha! I love it. Those pesky characters thinking they know everything (which they do). Don’t you hate when you ignore them and later realize they were right? It’s like they’re saying ‘I told you so’ somehow.