“Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.” — Joss Whedon
I’ll say up front that I’m not actually a parent, except to my cats. But I also remember the moment when, as a teenager, my mother uttered the curse almost every parent lays on their child at one point or another: “Someday, you’re going to have a kid just like you. Then you’ll know what it’s like.”
No children, but I have a number of characters whom I’ve “birthed” for my writing. Guess what? The best ones do start talking back, straining against what my conscious mind wants them to do because the subconscious is say, “No, we need to go this direction.” Like my mother, I can experience terrible frustration at that moment because they. Just. Won’t. Do. What. I. Want. Don’t they understand that MaMa knows best?
Ever have that feeling with your story? The moment when you could happily reach out and strangle your characters because they’re reacting differently than you expected them to? As frustrated as I am when it happens, I’m always anxiously waiting for when it happens in a project. That’s because the characters have now gone from being the set of characteristics I’ve thrown together and have developed something of a personality – and they push back in unexpected ways. They do things that provide shadings I hadn’t expected, or answer to plot problems that maybe weren’t quite fleshed out completely when I started. At this stage, it’s all imperfect and there’s still work to be done, but the groundwork’s there.
We’re starting the final full week of this year’s NaNoWriMo today, racing towards the finish line. Today, as you write, listen to what your story is trying to say to you. If it talks back, don’t try to immediately force it back into the channel you had planned, but open yourself to this new information. It may surprise you – and those surprises are sometimes the best moments of all.
Word Count Goal: 36,674