I can remember hearing the phrase “you’re not the boss of me” often when I was growing up – usually uttered by my cousins while I was babysitting. Years later, married with children of my own, our younger son could often be heard arguing with his older brother and literally yelling that same, time-worn phrase. Even my beautiful granddaughters have been guilty of denying their older brother’s place as “the boss of them”.
So here I sit, diligently crafting my current work in progress, relishing the peace and quiet of solitude when, all of a sudden, my heroine screams, “You’re not the boss of me. I’m not going to do that! I want to do this and so does my hero!”
Why won’t these crazy voices in my head just stay where I put them? Why must they demand to do something totally at odds with what I’ve plotted out?
Unfortunately, as writers, we’re often slaves to the whims of our characters, in much the same way readers want them to take a specfic path in their journey. I want a quiet interlude; they demand hot and steamy! I want them to be polite; they choose to be vocal about what’s bothering them. It’s truly a struggle of wills.
How do we get our characters to behave? That all depends on how disciplined you want your book to be. Do you want it to stick to the outline without deviation? If so, you need to crack down on your heroine’s penchant for speaking her mind. Do you want to be adventurous? Then, loosen the lead and let your characters have their way occasionally. Yet, how much is too much leeway? It’s a fine line between the story you envisioned and the one that seems to be sliding onto that blank computer screen.
A good rule of thumb: if the change is going to affect the plot so drastically that your ending, or possibly even your next chapter, will have to be thrown out you might want to re-think the hero or heroine’s motives for hijacking your story.
I remember critiquing a synopsis for a friend years ago. The story was tight, and she’d even created a chapter outline to keep her focused on her story. A few months later, she asked if I’d line edit the manuscript. How could I refuse? I’d been intrigued by her synopsis.
The story she sent me had little to do with what she’d put in the synopsis. Yet, the finished product was a joy to read and required very little editing. After I was done, I called her and asked, “What happened to the scene where your hero has to break up with his long-standing girlfriend? Where was the scene with the heroine’s dying mother?”
The author’s response: “I tried to go there, but my character’s kept putting their foot on the brakes.”
Sometimes a hijacked story can become the book of your heart. Other times, it becomes a dust bunny on your hard drive with nowhere to go but the trash bin. You, the author, have to be the babysitter, the over-tired mother, or the doting grandmother and rein your book-children in. Without your gentle and loving guidance, who knows where the heck they’ll end up!
One can only hope they’ll land on their feet or, even better, at the top of the NYT Bestseller list!
Speaking of being "hijacked" by a muse ... probably the most hijacked I've ever been is by heroine in my recent release, D*mn Near Perfect. I was trying to set her up with a banker and an old flame -- both her own age. But, my feisty cougar insisted on an artist cub! And, I couldn't have been happier with the result.
Beth Andrews has given up on ever finding a happily-ever-after. Still smarting from a bitter divorce, she’s decided the only thing she truly needs is sex.
Unfortunately, wanting sex and actually finding it are two very different things.
Jonathan Tucker is perfectly satisfied with his bachelor lifestyle. He has a wonderful career, a kick-ass new condo, and any woman he wants. As often as he wants. At twenty-seven, he’s convinced he’s living life exactly as it should be.
Will the older, albeit sexy, ad executive and the handsome, talented artist both find there’s more to life than what they have now? Or, will they be satisfied with what the both claim to want—d*mn near perfect sex!
Warning: This book contains language and sexual situations some readers may find HAWT!
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Until I'm back later this month to celebrate another Book Birthday ... stay happy, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay well read.