In my first novel, Unforgiving Ghosts, I didn’t have characters arguing with me. I wrote a rough outline, named the characters and knew their personalities. I had no conflict except the ones I wrote. Maybe, because this story was based on my real life experiences and the two main characters were loosely based on me and my husband, there wasn’t much to argue about.
I started my second, Shattered, and found the same thing. The characters acted and behaved as I, the author directed them. However, half way through this story I got a writing assignment from my writers’ group, that put this book on hold. The assignment was to write 500–1,000 words in the style of my favorite author. Of course I picked Kathleen E, Woodiwiss.
She always started her novels with the time and place of the setting. So I started researching just to see where I wanted it, and what year it would take place in. As the pieces clicked into place, I put my setting in America but Caitlin was from Ireland. Dillon had moved to the States from England. The time was 1798 and the Irish revolt against England was in full swing.
I now had a full set of characters, a setting and an interesting plot. Needless to say my 1,000 word assignment turned into a complete novel. I had an overall view of where I wanted this plot go but not a full outline as the previous two books. That wasn’t the only difference either. I was now dealing with a headstrong character that wanted to tell ME how the story should end. Really? I’m the author, I argued back to Caitlin. Your brother is dead and that is that!
One thing that always annoys me in books and movies is how everything always works out perfectly. The dead aren’t really dead, the husband sees the errors of his way and returns to his wife, the parents suddenly see how much their teenager is in love and stops fighting so they can be together.
Sometimes life just doesn’t work out this way. People die, even young ones, with no explanations. Husbands and wives split up and love doesn’t always work out. That is the real world. I wanted my novel to have more real life experience in it. I explained that to Caitlin a hundred times during the two years I wrote my story. “Your brother is dead and is going to stay that way.” I was firm with her. Death is part of war and it needed to be in my novel.
However, two years later as I wrote the final scene where she was waiting to welcome her family back, who walked off the ship? Her dead brother, Dwayne. I thought about hitting the delete button about hundred times. However, each time I heard Caitlin saying “No, it’ll work. Wait and see.”
I don’t know why but I finally gave in to her and allowed Dwayne to live. I still felt it was too much like a fairytale ending. But, a year later another author reviewed my book and sent me a private message asking me to write a sequel. My response, “I don’t have one.” This was a standalone book. He argued that Sarah, who got engaged to Brogan, Caitlin’s other brother, could start having feelings for Dwayne.
I knew that would never work because Sarah was too much in love with Brogan, and had waited years for him to propose. A few days later, another reviewer made a comment that she’d like to see a redemption story for, Henrietta. She was one of the villainesses in the story, but I wasn’t sure I could turn her from a bad girl to a likeable heroin. However, the more I thought about it the sequel started unfolding in my head. I could see Caitlin’s face turning red with anger when she finds out that Dwayne is in love with her enemy. I emailed the author who first wanted to sequel and asked him what he thought about the plot of Dwayne falling in love with Caitlin, Henrietta. He loved the idea and said that was the second book.
As I’ve been researching, I can see Caitlin smiling and saying, “See I told you it would work out.” The point to this article is that as authors we can have a dashboard view. We only see what is in front of us. These are the characters and this is the plot. The characters can have a helicopter view. Caitlin saw beyond her own story and saw the making of a sequel, even though I never had that in mind. Sometimes it’s best to just listen to your characters!! But that doesn’t mean I can’t extract a little revenge by having Caitlin have to deal with Henrietta in her family. So who’s laughing last?!
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