Out of Control by Alys West

I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve been trying to deny this for a while but I can’t anymore.  I have to admit that I’ve lost control of the characters in my second novel, Lughnasa. Orkney Aug 2010 009

Now some might say that’s a great thing.  Those would be the pantsers who like to go with the flow in their writing.  But I’m a plotter.  I write suspense. I need to know what’s going to happen so I can put the clues in the right places.  And not knowing what’s coming is starting to freak me out a bit.

It started with Winston.  After having a minor role in my first book, Beltane, he’s taken centre stage as the hero in Lughnasa and he’s grown and grown.  He’s a rather gorgeous archaeologist who just happens to be also a druid.  But now he’s got flaws that I never saw coming. He’s late for everything, he’s got a really arrogant streak and an unexpected fondness for Glenfiddich. And he never does what I expect.  I sit down to write a scene thinking ‘Okay, this and this have to happen’ and then Winston turns up and something else entirely actually unfolds.

Orkney Aug 2010 029

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have a few control freak tendencies.  I like to be organised, I like to plan ahead.  So Winston’s unpredictability is quite hard for me to handle.  And now it’s spreading to the other characters and no one’s doing what I expect.

I realise to non-writers this probably sounds like a borderline personality disorder but I’m pretty sure that other writers will have experienced something like it.  So what did you do?  Did you give them their heads? Or did you force them back in line with your plan?

I realised how far we’d gone astray when I re-read the synopsis that I’d first mapped out about eight or nine months ago.  There’s a small possibility that we may hit the same ending but the middle looks nothing like what I’d planned.  And I don’t know what to do.  Should I tear up the synopsis and see what happens?  Or should I try to persuade them back on track? All advice will be gratefully received before I start tearing my hair out.Orkney Aug 2010 057

If you’d like to leave a comment (and I’m really hoping you will as I need all the help I can get!) you can do that by clicking where it says ‘leave comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Alys xx

P.S. Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is why I’ve included a few photos of the islands.

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10 thoughts on “Out of Control by Alys West

  1. Oh that’s fabulous! This didn’t happen to me when I was writing Angel and that book took so much plotting and so many rewrites! But with Rose…Well, as you know, she just took over, and she really shocked me by doing the most unexpected things. I never knew what was going to happen next. Luckily, she did. I went with the flow and the book just wrote itself. I’d say, go with it. See where the characters take you. You can judge what they’ve done at the end! Have fun xx

  2. Hi Sharon
    I’m really pleased to know I’m not the only one that this happens to! I shall take your advice, keep going and see where we end up. Thanks xx

  3. Well I’m a total pantser and so I’m relieved to say that this happens to me all the time, otherwise nothing would ever get written! Like Sharon says, go with it and enjoy the ride. After reading Beltane, I for one can’t wait to find out what Winston gets up to xx

  4. Great post Alys! I love to plot too, but sometimes you just have to give your characters their heads, see where they take you and what happens along the way. You can always bring them to heel later on. Good luck with Winston, who sound delicious by the way! Xx

  5. Sometimes unplanned things turn out better than things that have been planned for ages. I think it’s the same with writing. If my characters are talking to me, I try to listen, and often they end up with more depth and are more interesting. I’m sure yours will be fine Alys. All the best.

  6. That has happened to us several times. In our first novel I introduced an aging house-teacher just as a background name to explain how the protagonist could know certain things about science; but once he was there he pushed himself in the foreground and in the end it was he and not the protagonist who unravelled the plot of the villains. Even worse havoc caused our young hero’s devious foster-sister, a late introduction into an already existing manuscript intended to be a minor distraction that was quickly to be disposed of, but she has this habit to usurp essential parts of the plot whenever she appears. My wife retrofitted her into the earlier volumes when she translated them into English, and there was one point during proofreading when I loudly exclaimed, “What is she doing here AGAIN?”

    • Thanks for commenting. Characters are so tricky aren’t they? it’s amazing how the ones who you think are going to have a small part can suddenly take over.
      Best of luck with your writing.

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