Answer: You don’t.
There are a few major differences between reading a book someone else wrote and sitting down to write your own. Surprisingly, though, there are also some similarities. Like when you suddenly realize your absolute favorite character in the whole story is about to die, and you cannot contain your despair, even though you know it’s just a book.
But it’s NOT just a book. For that span of time it takes you to read or write that story, it’s your LIFE.
Characters, like real people, have minds of their own. While this might seem a bit wacko on the surface from a writer’s point of view (after all, you’re the one writing the story, you’re ALWAYS in control, aren’t you?), I can honestly say I’ve never written an entire book without writing a scene or adding in at least one plot twist that I hated. It makes sense from the view of the reader: authors play with readers’ emotions on purpose. But a character isn’t really “alive.”
Or are they?
I’ve posted before about how, while writing the first book in my current trilogy, I realized in the middle of writing a scene that one of my favorite secondary characters had to die. Not because I have a twisted way of showing affection for the fictional people that I love (…) but because I needed a reason for another of the secondary, yet still equally important, characters in the story to drop her “I’m so tough, fear me” front.
She’s not so tough. The second book proves this.
Whether you believe it or not, there are points when you have to hand control of your story over to your characters. You are the one who created them, essentially, and therefore they’re quite literally your brainchildren. Sometimes they know what’s best for your story better than you do.
This is not the first time my characters have decided to rebel against my original plans for their life stories and choose alternative fates (and if I’m not alone, please reach out). 12,000 words into the sequel to the first unfinished novel in this trilogy I’m terrified I’m never going to actually finish, here is every single way thus far I’ve had to give up my “author complex” and let my characters write their own story.
I did not plan on the return of a traitor.
My original plan was to keep everyone who followed the “bad guy” to regions unknown at the end of the first book away from the characters in book 2. But of course, two scenes in, someone unexpected showed up at the capital, and well, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Now the dynamics of all the relationships have to change. DARN IT.
Only a select few people are supposed to know one of the main characters is dying.
Now it’s turned into the select few who know, then the separate few who know but don’t think anyone else knows. So what we have to deal with now is two separate groups of people trying to grieve over the same imminent loss of someone they love. And none of them know how to grieve, because emotions are frowned upon and no one knows how to deal with them. So it’s gotten much more complicated than I planned.
BECAUSE WHY NOT.
An actual graduation ceremony was never supposed to take place.
While a few of the main characters are at the point in their educations where they’r ready to graduate and start their adult careers, the original plan was to have everything so discombobulated and hopeless that even the idea of even having a graduation ceremony at all was out of the question. But I just finished writing a scene this morning that included caps, gowns and graduation speeches, and I think I’m actually annoyed.
But I can’t really do anything about it.
My characters are actually much smarter than me.
Because an unnamed traitor has made an unexpected return to the present, I’ve suddenly been provided with more flashback material, which I need for this particular story, because tense is a pretty big deal in order for everything that happens in the present to make sense. Even though no one else was supposed to find out about the pending death of [yet another] character I love, there’s now more tension between the two FMCs, which I needed, because two people can only be stubborn enough to avoid resolving conflict for so long before it happens naturally. And of course, the events that I now know need to play out at the actual graduation ceremony set up an entire new plot full of emotional issues like jealousy, hurt and failure (all issues these characters, of course, just cannot handle).
These fictional people are giving me an IRL headache. Stop the madness.