As you might already be aware, I try to write a bit every day. I wake up in the morning and find myself enveloped in the story. I look around and see the characters who then begin to do things. Sometimes unexpected things. Unintentioned things. Exciting things. That’s what makes writing so interesting for me. It’s the not knowing.
When I get almost to the end of a story and realise what’s going to happen, it becomes more of a struggle to write. It’s as if my mind has finished with the project and is no longer interested.
I have been a little bit poorly of late and unable to write. Now I’m recovered and back at it, I find that my characters haven’t had the patience and good grace to hang around and wait for me. Instead, they seem to have carried on regardless and what was a nice linear plot line involving four of them in a voyage of discovery has fallen to bits. I left them all on a perfectly good ship complete with crew, provisions and a clear plan. On my return, I find the ship is gone. I have no idea where it is. One of my characters is sitting on the shore feeling sorry for himself. Two more are wandering around in a jungle when they should be on the ship. These are the least of my problems. My fourth character has disappeared completely.
You might think it would be easy to find her. I’m the writer, after all. The fantasy world I’ve created is a bit short of detail, though. I only know about the places my characters have actually been. She may have gone somewhere new. Or even hopped out of this particular version of reality into a completely different one. She can do things like that. She’s a witch.
OK, I’m currently writing fantasy but my process is the same for my crime thrillers. I’m with the reader all the way. I know what they know. I can speculate, just as they can, and I do this in the same way whether I’m writing or reading someone else’s story.
Another thing I should mention is that my characters appear fully formed. What I mean is they have lived their lives outside the confines of my story and their motivation derives from experiences I have no knowledge of. Usually, I get to understand them better as the story unfolds. That’s what makes them interesting.
Like my witch. After 250,000 words of the story, I’m at last beginning to understand the reasons behind her behaviour right at the beginning. What she did then is only now beginning to make sense.
Are writers supposed to carefully design characters down the the colour of their eyes and the toys they received for their first Christmas? Should they always know what’s going to happen at the end of their story?
Am I the only one who writes without knowing anything?