Thursday 27 January 2022

Writing Workshop: Be Flexible

So, hands up if you’ve set out on a path to write a particular story in a particular way. You’ve sat down and planned it all out, right to the smallest detail. You’ve micromanaged the interactions of your characters. You’ve set in stone themes that you know need to be explored. Hell, you’ve even got a title and a cover sorted for your grand project.

Then, horror of horrors, your main character goes and does something expected. They fly off piste and find themselves in a situation for which you hadn’t bargained, experiencing emotions that you didn’t realise that they have, hurtling to a conclusion that you didn’t foresee.

What do you do? It is very tempting to try and drag them back to this Magnum Opus that you had planned, to bring them back to the Light and convert them to the one true religion of the way you see their universe running. You can insert twists and turns that will force them to comply with your intentions, making their life hell until they finally bend to your will as their creator.

The problem is, in the long term, it just won’t work. You end up sitting staring at your screen, gawping at the words you have spent the last month frantically typing, trying to bring your story back on track and you come to the devastating realisation that it is utter garbage. In trying to divert the story back to where you want it to go, you have made up unrealistic scenarios, created over-convoluted plot twists and changed your protagonist into a warped and hideous two-dimensional simulacra of what you actually intended them to be. 

And, this is where the dreaded writer’s block sets in. You have dug yourself into a hole and thrown away the shovel. There is no way out. You just sit there and weep.

However, it is all easily avoided. If your story takes a turn that you did not expect, then explore that twist. Never forget that writing is a creative art form. It is not a precise science where an equation states that if you apply one element, another must automatically follow. Let your characters evolve like letting a child grow into their new experiences. Don’t be afraid to play around with new ideas. Write them up, examine them, see if they work. If they’re absolute pants, then save them somewhere and try again to see what else might happen. 

It is crucial to be flexible. In doing so, you will let your story, and indeed your own writing style, evolve in a much more natural way, producing deeper content and far more believable stories.

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