How much freedom do I have?

In honor of the 4th of July, (oh hey, that’s today!), I thought I’d talk about something that I get told a lot– “Since you write fiction, it must be nice to have the freedom to write whatever you want when you get stuck in a story.”

This statement, while technically true, isn’t. At least, not to me. And definitely not according to my characters.

What I mean is, I have written 3 books, 1 novella, several short stories, and a graphic novel. And in each of those, there is a moment where yes, I’ve gotten stuck. (Or sometimes SEVERAL moments. 🙂 ) But I can’t just write whatever I want to get out of that corner. I’ve talked with other writers and they seem to understand this, but when I speak with those who don’t write, they give me blank looks. “It’s YOUR story, Christa, so you can write whatever you want to happen to the characters!”

This is my attempt to explain when I say that it IS my story to write, but I can’t write it any other way then the story already IS. (Man, that sounds confusing even to me! 🙂 )

Here is an example that really happened to me that I hope will help. I was writing on one of my books and a character of mine, lets call them Sam, was knocked unconscious. When Sam awoke and joined with the rest of the characters, I found it difficult to write Sam into the scenes. Other characters would have conversations, but when Sam would join in, there was repetition, or a feeling like a 3rd wheel. I tried multiple ways to get Sam involved–other words, other rooms, other actions–but the writing always felt forced. No matter what I did, it didn’t seem to matter. Sam didn’t fit. And trust me, I TRIED!

Then it hit me. Same didn’t fit because Sam wasn’t supposed to be in the story anymore. So I went back to the point where the awkwardness started–when Sam woke up from being knocked unconscious–and I realized Sam wasn’t supposed to wake up. Sam didn’t fit in the story because Sam had been killed, not just knocked out.

It was hard for me to deal with. I really liked Sam. I didn’t want Sam to die. But after, the writing flowed, the conversations between the survivors made sense, and the awkwardness was gone.

So, yes, technically I have the freedom to write whatever I want, but I can’t make the story into anything besides what it’s supposed to be. I HOPE that helped explain a little bit and thanks to everyone who is interested about me and my writing. I love, as always, your thoughts, questions, and feedback!

 

PS- Coming soon! Announcement of the cover reveal for my second comic book, HOLLOW’S PRISM: “Aftermath,” and fun times with fundraising!

8 Comments

  1. acmoyer

    Yeah, this is totally true. Not only do you have to be true to the story, but you can’t write anything that is out of character for the characters. I mean, they can grow, but you can’t suddenly turn around and say, “Oh did I mention that this character has wings and can fly? Because they totally can. So they’re just gonna fly out of this tricky situation I previously wrote them into. Kthanxbye!” (Although that does seem to be how soap operas are written.) I am currently struggling with some changes in direction that my story told me needed to happen, because although I know WHAT happens, it hasn’t yet told me HOW it happens. So annoying.

    1. That is frustrating when you only have one half, either that what or how! I know it will come to you though and I don’t know about you, but I LOVE that feeling when it reveals itself. If I can ask, what are you writing about?

      1. acmoyer

        Hey, I missed this reply somehow! I am writing about medieval peasants, which still seems weird to me. It just sort of…came to me. I’m not sure exactly what kind of story it will be because it’s still revealing itself, but a major theme that carries through is women’s lives and relationships in this world that in many ways was so similar to ours and yet in other ways was totally alien.

  2. That explains a few things. 🙂
    I had the opposite to your “Sam” story above happen recently when a character I had doomed from the outset turned out to be necessary to the functioning of the story. So I had to figure out a way to get the reversal-of-fortune that I had them originally set for to be sufficiently expensive using someone else that it would jolt the audience.
    I suspect my real take on “writing whatever you want,” is that you can, but you have to pay for it. Figuring out how to pay for it is really the hard part. An event (usually good) can ring “NOT TRUE!!!” if achieving it fails to exact some emotional toll on the audience.
    Practical example: The romance in “Dark Knight Rises” was clearly something the audience was nudged into wanting, but the characters only spent like two minutes on-screen with each other, and largely only saw each other in form-fitting shiny black outfits during some kind of Drama. In real-life, that might be plenty for some people, but in fiction, it was hard for me to swallow.
    I concede this might all be cynicism on my part. Then again, Tolkien felt the need to coin the term “eucatastrophe” because he noticed “catastrophe” didn’t have an opposite. There was no word for things suddenly going from bad to good. I suspect it’s because it hardly ever happens, and certainly not for free which might be the real root of my musings above.

  3. mom

    christa, i love your perspective on writing. basically, the characters tell YOU what they’re going to say and do. i find that fun and fascinating. thanks for sharing.

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