The Evolving Storyline

What do you do when you set out to write a story and suddenly it is no longer the story you set out to write?

The evolving story, as I like to call it, happens to me quite frequently. When I wrote my story “The 50 Deaths of Annabelle Joy” there was clearly my heroine plagued by the affections of the villainous Grim Reaper. I knew she would hate him the entire time, be repulsed by his affection for her, and fight to get away from him every day of her life. My original plan had Annabelle growing up, marrying, and giving birth to a daughter. As Annabelle’s daughter grew up, Death would begin to shift his interest from Annabelle to her daughter. When Annabelle learns Death intends to release her and to begin courting her daughter, Annabelle would agree to become his bride. That WAS my plan, but after I started writing it, the story evolved into something entirely different.

I am the author who becomes more acquainted with my characters as I write my story, I let my characters tell me the story and I write it. My last post I talked about character interviews, getting to know you character as the/she grows during the story. The interview was especially important in my book referenced above. As I wrote and interviewed my antagonist, I began to see the story from his perspective and that he was not, in fact, a ‘bad guy’ but a victim of circumstance.

The evolution of a story is not always as dramatic as it had been in my case, it could be something small like an unexpected ally or perhaps a game changer of finding someone else is the true villain. Allowing for evolution is partly why I do not attempt to outline my entire book, because I know the plan will likely change. As I write I find favorite characters die, while some deaths turn out to be only a near-death. I’ve had bad guys soften their hearts to become a hero and I have had strong alliances turn out to be a front, none of which I planned from the beginning.

People have asked me, ‘How did you not know your character would do that? You’re writing the story.’ Yes, I am writing the story, but I write what I see as I see it. 

All I would like to say is you should not plan your book so stringently you do not allow for things to change. We have a vision for our books as we set out to write them, but sometimes what comes from the evolution is so much better than anything we could have planned.

Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan. John C. Maxwell

I would love to hear of a time from you when you wrote a story that turned out differently from what you had planned.

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