Ever read a mystery that left you flabbergasted? The murderer was not the suspect you had in mind. How did that happen? There wasn’t a clue—or at least not one you figured out. So how did the writer pull it off? Quite possibly they were surprised too.
You know how it is. You get into a groove and those characters just take over. They do what they want and go where they will and you end up being only the typist.
But suppose you are stuck and the characters don’t want their story to end. They simply will not co-operate. The book is already 100,000 words. It has to end. So you are stuck, your characters refuse to leave, and your editor is yelling something about a deadline. (Aren’t they always?)
Turn to your writing group pals. Give them the first line of your trouble spot and turn them lose. After all, writing nights aren’t just for coffee and doughnuts. They are for writing.
For instance, with this line opener (“Gerald was tired of losing. He was determined he wasn’t going to lose again”), my writing group created a variety of short stories. One wrote about a child determined to beat his brother at something, another about lost love. Others wrote mysteries with a twist and one even penned a poem about losing a battle with God.
Here is the first bit of my take on that line:
Gerald was tired of losing. He was determined he wasn’t going to lose again. So he put murder on the back burner, for the time being at least. He’d have to consider another way to get rid of his partner, who was eating him out of house and home. Good grief! Didn’t she have a clue how much a T-bone steak cost?
Just then, the greedy thing strolled in just like she owned the place, her nose high in the air like royalty. Gerald looked the other way. He didn’t dare let Patsy catch his eye because if he did . . .
Well, you can read the rest of that when it gets into print.
Suppose you want to kill off Gerald, but he refuses to go. Drop a clue in chapter four about how he likes to dabble with arsenic in the back garden. Or maybe you created princessy Betsy and you can’t stand her. Set her up in chapter five with the weapon she stores in her lingerie drawer “for protection” or tell how she drinks her hair dye. (Okay, that’s a stretch, but you get my drift.)
You might hate the new versions, but you’ll be forced to see your plot through the eyes of real people, not “novel beings.” You might even develop the courage to take control over your own story. Your mind will devise fresh plots. You’ll end your book with a plot twist that fooled you and your readers right up to the very end, and eventually you’ll find out what Gerald did next.