Book Expectations

So as I’m going through doing the last line edit of Red, I’m reflecting about how it didn’t turn out like I expected. That’s something I was used to back when I was a pantser, when part of the joy of creating was the journey of seeing where the story took you.

It’s a different thing to be a plotter and be surprised.

And I don’t mean that the plot changed, because it really didn’t. The end story was still exactly what I’d outlined. But it…well for lack of a better term, it felt different to me when it finished. There were things that I expected to really take center stage thematically (as they did in the plotting phase) that really took a back seat in the actual execution. Which is fine. Different themes emerged. The book is what it is, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve done to date.

But it’s just kind of weird to me how even knowing what happens, there is still room to be surprised by my story and my characters.

I guess stories are like children in that sense. Parents have all kinds of expectations about how their kids will turn out. Mine really wanted me to be a lawyer or a business person (GAG ME–I would bleed out from the eyeballs with utter, soul-sucking boredom) and were baffled enough when I went into psychology and totally freaked by my desire to be a professional writer because this is not a practical or safe career choice. As Kristen said in her post the other day

Many of us, when we tell our family that we want to be a writer, what they hear is akin to, “Blah, blah, throwing away college education blah blah cult blah Kool-Aid, blah blah writer.”

Never mind the fact that in the current crappy economy, pretty much NOTHING is a practical or safe career choice and NOBODY gets out of college and gets a really good job. I digress.

But the point is, we always defy our parents’ expectations on some levels. And our characters, and even books as a whole, do the same to us as writers. These are our babies, and while they are a part of us, they sure as hell have minds of their own. And if we’re to write the best books we can, we’ll respect that they may have a different path than the one we originally intended or expected.

So ends my random Saturday morning pontification. I’m off to the Atlanta Aquarium!

4 thoughts on “Book Expectations

  1. Well,you know I’m a pantser. I love that the characters have minds of their own. I didn’t think about that being able to happen to a plotter. That’s pretty cool.

    I’ve been lucky that my mom has always supported me no matter what I chose to do. She was my tower of strength growing up, and I think she’s the reason I feel like I’m so well adjusted. And it really helps that she loves my books. 🙂

  2. Pantsers generally assume that any advance planning is going to somehow interfere with their creativity. I’ve found just the opposite. I do intensive planning, but my characters *always* surprise me, and the stories always make twists and turns that I don’t expect. If you plan out every single scene and determine ahead of time exactly what your characters are going to do and say, then I’d agree that’s like wearing a straitjacket. But that’s not my idea of being a plotter.

  3. II agree with Catana–I plot a lot, but some character will always stand up and tell me to stuff my outline, there is no way they are going to do or say what I’ve planned. If they don’t, then the piece feels lifeless–I think it is more a noose than a straightjacket, because it just kills the character if I insist. I’ve stopped doing that!

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