Writing often takes a turn the author doesn’t expect.
This is perfectly normal, because as weird as this may sound, it’s actually the characters (yes, my imaginary friends) who control the story. When I sit down at the computer, it’s not often I know what I want to write, my fingers and brain connect and it just seems to happen.
A perfect example of this came early on, while I was writing Purple Roads. I had an idea of what I wanted Anna to do, in Chapter 13,when she visited the races in Clare with her friend Kate. But the event I had planned was actually supposed to take place in Chapter 14. Kate (who is a little impatient, much like me) made it happen in Chapter 13! All without my approval!
I wrote an article for the Australian Romance Readers Assoc. back in January 2011. It was the easiest article I’d ever written because it had just happened to me.
Not long after Kate pulled her early acting stunt with me, one of the minor characters in Purple Roads decided he didn’t like his role. He didn’t think he was getting enough attention. Now I’m sure as you read this article, you’ll think I’m stark raving mad.
You might be right!
“Gavin, friend or foe?
Imagine, in the beginning, I’m sitting at my office desk, rounding out the characters for my next book, Purple Roads.
I’m engrossed in what I’m doing. I can see their faces, hear their voices and picture each and every one’s reactions to the different circumstances I’m going to throw at them.
Then, as I put my pen down, happy with the work I’ve done, knowing that my plot is planned and all I have to do is write, a hand begins to tap me on the shoulder. So gently at first, I can barely feel it. I’m not sure what it means, so I ignore it, now and over the coming weeks.
Starting a new book is always exciting. I love plowing head-first into a new set of characters that become my friends. I adore being able to block out the real world and live in a world I’ve created. A world where I can make it rain when the farm needs it, turn bad times into good and play with people’s lives, knowing that no actual harm can come to the characters that come alive through my pen, unlike in reality.
When my character (we’ll call him Gavin—not his real name in Purple Roads) began to tap my shoulder, slightly more insistently, I was too excited to be beginning another book, to hear him. Pleas for a major role were ignored. He kept telling me that my plans for him weren’t enough—he had a story to tell and I wasn’t letting him tell it.
It was in the early hours of the mornings, I heard him most, but I knew he was wrong. He was nothing more than a minor character.
More fool me.
Suddenly my writing came to a grinding halt. In fact, I’m positive that the squealing, as the breaks were applied, was so loud, it could be heard outside of my head.
For weeks I tossed and turned, trying to work out which way the plot would go, thwarted at every turn I made. I began to wonder if I needed to bring in a who new character to help me out of the hole I’d written myself into.
All the while Gavin sat in the background, calling softly: ‘Me, me, me!’
Ask my husband how stubborn I can be. When I put my mind to something, it’s rare that I am dissuaded. I am in charge of my book. Me. The author. I kept saying ‘no’ to Gavin.
‘You have a minor role. You don’t need a big one.’
‘But I do, Fleur. I have a story.’
‘No, Gavin. You don’t. So far in one hundred pages, you’ve had exactly four conversations. You are a minor.’
I could hear him sigh, imagine him throwing his hands in the air and saying: ‘You’ll work it out soon enough. I’m a major player.’
‘No, you’re not.’
Over the following weeks, frustration turned to fear. I couldn’t write, I was a fraud and it was only by some cruel joke, that I’d been given a publishing contract.
Then one day, once again in the small hours, I was woken by the sound of soft rain. Being nearly dawn I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up to try and write.
As I sat at the computer, I didn’t know what I was going to say, until Gavin decided he had had enough of gentle coaxing. He slammed into the forefront of my mind, yelling: ‘Here’s my story, you stupid, stubborn woman!’
I started to type. And type and type. Gavin’s story took on a life of its own, got me out of the hole I was in and opened up a whole new sub-plot. He took me places I had never dreamed of going, pushed my boundaries and challenged me. Suddenly his story had become the whole reason that Purple Roads existed!
As I read back over my work, a few days later, I couldn’t help but wonder how he was the one who had known he needed a major role, not me. It’s my story, aren’t I the one who is supposed to be in control?
Now he’s sitting quietly in the background, arms folded, nodding in a satisfied sort of way, saying: ‘I told you so.’
I might sound strange, having fictional characters talk to me. Maybe it’s like a nice type of personality disorder, but by hell, it’s fun!”
I’d be really interested to know if you can work out who Gavin is, when you read Purple Roads!