Friday, September 10, 2010

Tip; Going Someplace?

Sometimes the story wants to go someplace that you don't want it to go--or goes somewhere you didn't foresee. For example, consider the following sentences I recently wrote in my novel not an hour ago--yes, it is finally moving again.

A familiar cry sounded nearby. "Maston! Are ye deaf? Tell the men to unload, and do it sharpish!"

An incredulous thought crossed Aron's mind. Captain Jaskin?

The barrel-chested man stormed into view, a man in tow. "Sir," the man was saying, "I could not find a solitary man willing to--"

"Tis yer job!" the captain growled. "Do it right, or ye'll find yerself out of work. Permanently!"

The captain abruptly changed course and crashed into Aron. "Sir!" Aron said quickly, surprised.

Captain Jaskin raised a bushy eyebrow. "Aye? Why, if tisn't the Paladain lad 'imself! Are ye looking for work again?" His normally frowning face took on a slightly more pleasant hue. "What brings ye to this..." He glanced around. ""

Aron bowed slightly. "It is good to see you again, Captain. I...well, it's a long story, sir."
The large man clapped Aron on the back. "Then ye can tell it to me in my quarters. Come!" He said it with such force that Aron didn't dare disobey...

The thought of Aron, my character, going to Captain Jaskin's quarters didn't cross my mind until it popped up. Sometimes characters are just so forceful that they force the story to go somewhere else. You see, I needed Jaskin to take Aron somewhere on his ship--but Aron had to ask at one time or another. Instead of asking then and there, the natural thing to do would be to go somewhere comfortable to talk--his quarters. If you can manage to make your character do the 'natural' thing--that is one step closer to a better character.

Tolkien, in a letter to someone (I haven't the slightest idea who--I'll find out in a moment), once wrote this;

"I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but the Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure. I had never heard of the House of Eorl nor of the Stewards of Gondor. Most disquieting of all, Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as mystified as Frodo at Gandalf's failure to appear on September 22."

-J. R. R. Tolkien, in a letter to W. H. Auden, 7 June 1955

In a fantasy novel, there are many more 'unknowns' than there are 'knowns'. If one pops up along the way, don't bother trying to revise it. Stuff that comes out naturally is usually good for your novel. It shouldn't effect the overall plot too much. If something pops up that you had not foreseen, then evaluate it. If it is good, keep it! If not, don't be afraid to cut it.


Beorn said...

That letter from Tolkien is interesting. It makes me think that he was a NOP (non-outlining person).

Great post, as always =)

Galadriel said...

The technical term, Beorn, is Seat-of-the-Pants writer. I am a proud member.

Jake said...

As am I. :) Though I do outline on occasion--a requirement of OYAN.

Star-Dreamer said...

First of all, I LOVE that quote from Tolkien. That is exactly the way I feel about it!

As for things like that that happen to me, well... let me show you.

1) SOTD, I had a vague idea that there were "bandits" on the Balkune plains, but I had no idea who they were or what they were doing there.

2) SOTD, I didn't know how Olan's brother would fit into the story... but he shows up later any how.

3) SOTD, Garra is always full of surprises.

4) SOTD, Ahji popped up in a scene one day and stuck.

5) SOTD, How in the world did a man named Aimos work his way in?

6) Eldrei, working on an attack scene... originally it wasn't there, then suddenly it was.

And there are lots of other examples, but I just can't think of them right now. :)

Star-Dreamer said...

And I am also a proud member of the Seat-of-the-pants-writing club as well. :D Especially for RD's, but it usually happens in rewrites too.

Jake said...


Awesome! I can't wait to read SOTD. :)

Gillian said...

I love that quote by Tolkien... it's so awesome!

Haha, yeah, I used to be a complete SOP writer in that I would sit down with absolutely no idea of plot line... now, I'm a little more in the middle. I outline in that I have an idea of where the story is starting, a little of the middle, and where I want it to end up. But there's plenty of room for surprises!

Haha, and my characters are always surprising me when they make choices I wasn't anticipating... lol