“I’m cheating on my boyfriend.”
I can honestly say, I was not expecting her to come to me with this confession. Especially since she was someone I thought I knew. Someone I thought I could trust.
“I just thought you should know,” she said, and that was that.
What’s even crazier is, I forgave her.
Even more so, it brought us closer together. Strengthened our bond.
This is, if you have not figured it out already, exactly the kind of exchange that routinely occurs between me and the characters I create.
I was quickly approaching the halfway point of my second novella of the year and started writing a scene that was supposed to be between one of my four MCs and her primary love interest. Little did I know (and with no warning whatsoever) that she had a second love interest. One I had already introduced to my readers, and was only supposed to be a supporting character for a different MC’s storyline.
I was wrong, of course. Stories have layers, and she wasn’t going to let me ignore this one.
As I said, it turned out for the better. Every story, especially shorter ones, needs fast-paced conflict and a lot of twists to give it life and keep the reader engaged. This secret second boyfriend of hers was a secondary conflict that has now ended up trying all four of these characters’ stories together in a pretty dark but amazing way.
I must warn you: your characters are brilliant. They are cunning. They have secrets, and they will not hesitate to share them with you.
But they cannot write their own stories. Only you can do that.
This relationship between a character I loved and a character I hated was the exact opposite of what I hoped for, in the beginning. At first, I was disappointed. Sad. I felt bad for her main love interest and for the other characters that would be hurt by the truths they’d never told.
Yet that’s the element of tension this story needed. Up until that point I was only working with one layer, and it was shallow, and I was afraid it was starting to get boring. And that’s when it really started to get interesting.
Realizing that I was so deeply affected by my MC’s confession reminded me why we have to pay attention to these random twists in our creative thinking. If we do not feel it, our readers will not feel it. If I played it safe, my story would not be worth the read.
Maybe it still won’t be. I don’t know. You’ll find out in a few weeks.
In the meantime, you can get your copy of my first novella and donate to a good cause in the process.
Image courtesy of Image Catalog/flickr.com.
Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.