You’re on track with your character development and you carefully drew out your storyline on a whiteboard or on butcher paper. Then, all of a sudden, your character(s) take a detour. What do you do?
First, don’t panic. Detours often bring a richer story with them and you go deeper with your characters. If the detour is at the beginning of your book then rewrite the opening chapters with the new character insights.
If you reached the halfway point of your novel or are close to the end of it, then keep going with your new story and character development. Then when you start your rewrites, start from scratch. Otherwise, you’ll deal with a chaotic manuscript fraught with errors.
Often times when we rush in and start the novel before the story becomes solid in our minds, we run the risk of characters taking detours. Even if we do wait until we’ve mapped out our storylines and developed our characters, they keep evolving as we write and we still encounter detours. However, I think detours are actually a sign that we are on the right path.
If you work with storyboards then note the detours on the boards and then go back later to rectify the story that occurs before the detour. Sometimes the detours add a nice plot twists and you change little in the early parts of the manuscript. It depends on the story and the type of character involved.
I still think it’s a good idea to get fully acquainted with the characters. Interview them to learn about their thoughts and feelings; likes and pet peeves. Write down their physical attributes (petite, blonde, with fuller lips, and small feet). The color of a character’s hair matters since hair color is often linked to cultural references or perceived personality types such as the bubbly blonde or the fiery redhead. A character’s ethnicity matters too and we often work harder at researching their identity to avoid generalizations.
Hair color and body type also define a character’s experience and perception of the world as well as, how other characters perceive them. Even the readers of the book have biases towards hair, skin, and eye color or body weight. One annoying detour happens when we created a character with cropped blonde hair and later learn that she has long red hair. We thought the character came from German heritage but she came from an Irish family of immigrants. See how that changes the story?
Other detours occur when we learn that the character works at a different profession then we first imagined. Or the character who we thought was heterosexual joins the LGBT community and rushes out of the closet. This happened with at least two of my characters during my novel writing endeavors.
Detours happen and often time the change of direction brings deeper meaning and more depth to a story. Some spiritual teachers suggest that characters represent hidden parts of our psyche or our unclaimed shadows. Whether that is the case or if the characters live outside of us (but still in our imagination), embrace the detours. Just like in life, those detours rescue us from another fate or in the least, lead us to the real treasure.
Need inspiration, sign up for a creativity coaching session with me. I combine channeling, cards, and astrology as tools to help you become the best writer possible. I charge $100 an hour for a Skype session. Payment.