A thousand and one voices inside your head

Join me today in distracting author  C.E. Page (Cassandra Page). Her #SPFBO7 novel Deathborn has not only survived a review on Lynn’s Book Blog, the reviewer says she “had a good time with Deathborn.” Now Cassandra awaits a more specific verdict.

When asked if secondary or minor characters clamored for more of a role in Deathborn, the author provided me an answer I will always appreciate. I, too, create my stories as I go, and I, too, don’t like the name “pantser.” Page has found a far more descriptive way to explain this process.

Are you a “discovery writer” too? Read on and find out!

Sometimes it seems that writers are people living with a thousand and one voices inside their heads. If you wander through the halls of the various writing groups you will often hear authors complaining about characters who refuse to behave as they were meant to. Characters who insist on stealing the limelight from others or whose voices are just so intriguing they deserve more page time. The advice to counteract this problem often goes along the lines of: “you’re the author you tell the characters what to do not the other way around.” But it is not that simple.

Or it might be for those authors who are meticulous plotters. Who know every in and out their story needs to take to get from point A to point B. But the creative process is unique to each person. I am a character focused author; my stories always start with a single character and their place in their specific world. Deathborn started as Nea’s story. The first scene I ever wrote was a version of what is now the start of chapter five. A woman investigating the body of a man in a ditch who had died under suspicious circumstances. I knew nothing else about any of the other characters or the story. People would call me pantser but I dislike that word and much prefer discovery writer. I discover the story as I go. This also means I discover the characters as I go and sometimes they really surprise me.

The first draft of Deathborn was told solely from Nea’s point of view. Garret was never meant to be a point of view character. In fact, I seriously thought that he wasn’t going to survive the events of the book. But as I got further into the draft I felt he had a bigger role to play in the overall series. Then we have characters like Harvey who kept edging his way into scenes. He was always lurking there on the sidelines waiting to jump in when I least expected him to. I knew he also had a bigger part in this story but I wouldn’t know just how he fit in until I started drafting Brightling.

I guess it isn’t that my characters insist on having bigger roles but rather that as I go through the process of discovering my story I uncover more about them and how they fit into their world. But why Harvey and Garret and not Emil or Jasper or Molly? I wish I had a definitive answer because I am sure that would save me a lot of hair pulling and thumping my head against the desk during drafting. The writing process for me as I mentioned is about discovering my story. It is intuitive and somewhat messy, but I trust my gut when it comes to my characters. And yes, some are louder than others; some insist on more page time and the rest step back to let them have it. But for me it’s not really the characters themselves being pushy but rather my understanding of the world of the story evolving. Of the path through the mire being illuminated. And that’s why it’s so hard for some authors to accept the: “you’re the author, you’re in charge of this story” line. Sometimes we really aren’t in charge. Sometimes the story is a magical beast charging at breakneck speeds towards a loch in which it intends to drown us.