Do your characters live and breathe? How can you tell if they do? I think you’ll just know, because all you can do is think about them. I’ve been in the kitchen chopping up carrots when a certain character or two pops into my head and the story develops from there. Where is this storyline going, how will it end? Thing is, I never know the ending. And that’s where the element of surprise is not only thrilling for the reader, but the writer as well.
I’ve tried the whole outlining deal… putting down on paper how things will occur within my stories. Beth meets Joe. Joe’s mom is sick. Joe does drugs. Beth leaves him. A-B-C-D-done. Not so. Because even with the best planning and control, you can lose everything when your characters surprise you. The perfect example of a character gone wild is Christian Rusch from SWELL. I thought I had it all planned out between him and the MC, Beck Ionesco. He was the love of her life, right? Well, he did something that completely threw me off-guard, changing the story in a way I didn’t see coming. Not to mention what it did to Beck, poor girl. In the end, Christian’s decision to make a drastic move flavored the story to make it… irresistible. Truth, I cried because he did what he did. Damn him!
I’m not complaining, though. The element of surprise keeps the pages turning, luring the reader toward the unknown with expectations that are anything but what we expect. Are you looking for fun, only to find the character taking you down a more twisted path? Trust their instincts, and go with whatever they bring to the table. It just might help you create the best damn story.