Story Hijacking: When Characters Go Wild

Let’s talk about the phenomenon of storyjacking by characters, shall we?  I feel like it is a very real problem in the writing society, yet few people seem to talk about it.  I have experienced storyjacking, and this is my story.

vs.

Ha ha, okay, but really.  Have you ever had those moments when you said to yourself, “Okay self, this is how it’s gonna be.  My characters will do this, this and this in this scene, in that order, and it will work out, and everyone will be happy, and then I will move on to the next scene.  This is the best way.  Good plotting, self!”?  Well, maybe not word-for-word, but you get the idea.  This is the idea of planning for a story.  We talked about Noveling White Space before, and how one of the better ways to prevent being stuck in it is to plot!

But what about when plotting goes awry?  What if your characters decide to do this, not that?  Is it a major problem, or does it make the story better?  That is what I’m trying to determine.

Take this for example, from my own story.  In one particular scene I had my main character going out to a cave to gather herbs, where she subsequently runs into the bad guy’s henchman.  It seemed like a good way to go.  But then she decided that this was apparently a stupid idea, and even while I was writing it, changed the way the scene was going to work.  Instead she woke up sad and hid out in a bell tower, prompting her to see a falling star and chase after it with her best friend.  (“But he wasn’t supposed to be in this scene,” I argue, and am stoutly ignored.)  Next thing I know she’s trapped in the cave with the henchman guy because of a cave-in, leaving me to try to figure out how to get her out of this mess.

I step back and go, “What the HECK happened to my story?!  This isn’t what I was planning at all!”.  And it isn’t.  Yet, when I think about the events that came before, and Gaia as a character, I think that this makes more sense.  I feel like it is more interesting.  (I could be completely wrong with this, but try to just trust me.)  My MC sort of hijacked my story, but she knew what she was doing.

Sometimes I think this is part of the fun of writing, as well as the twisty, crazy, sometimes-headache-y part as well.  You’re writing with a general idea of where you’re going–maybe even an extraordinarily well-thought-out idea–and yet your characters can still turn the tables and surprise you even as their actions pour out of your fingertips.

But what if they’re different people than you imagined?  What if they turn into someone inherently different than you set out to write about?  Should you go with it and see where it leads, see if it messes things up irrevocably?  Do you go back and change them to suit your original vision?  And what about events?  If the story takes them left when you wanted to go right, do you adjust your course?  Or do you go back to the fork and make it work out the way you wanted?

At this point I’m going with it, but I am guessing these are questions I will face down when I get around to the editing phase of my story, and I pray that my crazy characters aren’t making more work for me in the future.

Peace out everyone!

Celeste

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