Spontaneity in Writing

Like any experienced cartographer will tell you, dear writer, you rarely get it right on the first draft.

In writing, spontaneity can be a good thing. It can be that burst of life your narrative has been laking, a gust of wind caught in the sails that moves the plot along in new and unexpected ways. Give into the temptation to stray from the course and you just might surprise yourself.

I myself have gravitated towards plotting out a story from start to finish. When I begin a project I usually have one final culminating scene in mind. That scene is the gemstone, and everything else becomes the setting for that gemstone. At least that’s how it starts. I’ve found over years of writing this first novel of mine that clinging to the rigidity of an unchanging and never-bending outline stymies progress.

I’d get seventy pages in, knowing that something was wrong… the story wasn’t developing like the stuff I’d loved, my world was too bare, my characters too cardboard. I had no idea what the hell was happening, and then my writing group hit me with the logic A-bomb of the century. We were half way through my novel, and they had no idea what my cyborg’s motivation was because he was by himself. His shadow-hunt was always by his side, but whenever any action happened I’d park her on the side and let my cyborg go in solo, and beyond that Las Lomas (My Cyborg’s home) was never visited, hardly talked about, and my readers would have no interest in it… Like I said devastating.

It was time to go back to the drawing board. It was around that time two of us NCNers were running into the same problem. As such we both opted to scrap the project and start again from scratch. I rebooted my hebdomadal start, I reworked the outline, but this time I resolved to let things develop naturally. Meaning I was going to get to know my characters and my world, and I was going to let them live and make mistakes with me until we were all satisfied. In this way, me and my cast of characters were finally on the same damn team. Our relationship is mush better because of it!

That being said, I still have a few key scenes in mind, and I know what I’m trying to achieve. I use this tool I call arcs to understand my story. It’s something they use in comic books. Arcs, in comic books, are complete stories that overlap. One arc begins, and in the middle of it the seeds of another arc are planted and start to develop as the original climaxes and draws to a close. It’s a complex way of looking at story telling but it suits me.

Beyond the Southerly Weepers has 5 arcs altogether, and each one overlaps until the grand finale where everything comes to a head, the clouds part, and my god it all makes sense. Each arc has a beginning, middle, and end, but each arc is progressively more tense, and my cast of characters is pushed to the limits of their capacity with every sweep and change. They are turbulent waters my characters navigate!

So while I’ve experienced the folly of rigidity in writing and have learned to value gut-instinct writing that can adapt and move organically along with any developing situation, I also maintain a clear view of where I’m going. My ship is always pointing in the direction I want it to go regardless of whether the wind blows southerly or otherwise.

Spontaneity is a fantastic tool for letting your character’s breath. They don’t always like live by the author’s agenda, and if you force them too some of them with atrophy, wither, and die. To avoid that, let your characters surprise you from time to time, and when they do, and when it feels right and good, that’s when you need to reevaluate your outline. Your character’s have just found the right path for you, and you owe it to them to plot the new course.

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