Sometimes you have to let the story tell itself.
Most times in fact. But there are some days when you have to get that story in an arm lock and at least point it in the right direction.
I am not a big plotter. I’ve tried plotting out entire novels before writing a single word of prose, and what usually happens is that I wind up never writing a single word of prose. My novels die at the outlining stage. I lose all enthusiasm for them, and they look mechanical and forced.
But when I write ‘blind’, I find the people in my novels take on their own lives, start making their own decisions. This forces the narrative to become character led rather than plotted. And I find that to be a much more organic way of writing. The finished novel feels more natural, as the events are shaped by the characters’ decisions and reactions to decisions made by other characters, not by a mechanical plot.
But sometimes that way of writing can get bogged down with difficulties too.
What if one of your book’s characters ups and does something which ties your narrative into knots? Does something which halts your progress on the book and leaves you sitting and staring at your computer screen, thinking What the hell?
I’ve been there, and it’s not pretty and it’s not pleasant.
So what’s the answer in a situation like that?
The first thing to do, in my experience, is take a look at the character who made that narrative changing decision.
Can you see why they did it? Is it part of their natural character arc, and in line with their own personal goals, aspirations and motives?
If not, chances are your subconscious dropped this into your conscious mind, and you put it down on paper as it seemed like a good idea. Time to take a step back and re-examine your character and their motivations and personality. If you can’t see why they would do this, then there is your answer. Time for a rewrite of that particular scene.
If, on the other hand, this book changing scene is entirely in keeping with your character’s motivations and personality, you’ve got a problem.
But it could be a good problem.
Because you need to sit down and think how everybody else in your novel is going to react to this decision, and how it will shape the rest of your story. Who knows, this one decision by your character may take your novel in an entirely unexpected direction, and that can often be a good thing.
After all, if you were surprised by your story’s sudden change in direction, then surely your readers will be too.