Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Expect the Unexpected
Okay, as advice goes, let’s face it, that’s pretty sucky. How can you prepare yourself for the unforeseeable? If we knew when the unexpected would be putting in an appearance, we wouldn’t have an insurance industry.
However, “expect the unexpected” is the unofficial motto of us writers who consider ourselves pantsers. When we sit our butts down in front of the keyboard, half the time we don’t know what the hell’s going to happen. We’re a mass of literary Flying Wallendas, inching our way across a vast chasm on a slender wire buffeted by wind gusts and hoping like hell we make it to the other side intact. Plotters stop and build a bridge, but that approach won’t work for us. We’re constantly flinging ourselves into the abyss in the hopes there’ll be a net down there when we hit the bottom. We also mix our metaphors a lot.
This often results in a lot of abandoned stories, as that rich vein of imagination that looked so promising peters out after a couple of chapters and leaves us staring at the bare rock of a blank page. (I did warn you about the metaphors.) On the other hand, we suffer less from boredom because, like the reader, we have no idea what’s coming up, and won’t know what happens until we get there.
This is why I write: to find out what happens. A lot of times I know what happens, but not how the story gets from Point A to Point B. That’s the unexpected part.
Case in point: I’m fiddling around with that “slave romance” I started a couple weeks back. At the time I figured it would be a romp, a comedy involving a sexy, rich, but shrewd woman and the “slaves” she buys striving to outwit each other while enjoying frequent, steamy sex. Then the unexpected reared its unforeseen head, in the form of a bad guy, a would-be suiter after the woman’s money. He’s going to cause horrendous problems for our heroine, and her devoted boys will have to rescue her. Assuming she doesn’t rescue herself; her personality’s already shaping up that way. Meanwhile, not only is one of the male characters going off in an entirely different direction, but I think he may be black, or at least dark-skinned. I don’t know where the hell that came from. Call it my efforts at unplanned diversity.
This has happened before. I grew up white, female, and middle class, so when I write that’s my default position. In my mind, my characters are white. Except when they’re not. Let me revise that. My characters start out white. They may not stay that way. Another story I was fiddling around with involved a M/M/M ménage. I was fairly sure all three men were Caucasian. One’s a blue-eyed blond, for God’s sake. Then I read over a description I’d written and realized one of them was black. Oops. Fortunately, both of these stories are science fiction and set on alien worlds, so my glaring lack of knowledge about the black experience won’t be a hindrance. I can write them as people, which is what we’re supposed to do with our characters, though sometimes political correctness gets in the way.
I hadn’t meant to put that lesbian raccoon shifter into the one story either. Her large family came as a double surprise. As far as I know, the rest of them are straight. Although I could be wrong.
So many times the “unexpected” turns out to be sequels. One thing leads to another and another and before I know it, my short story has turned into a generational family saga. This is one unexpected consequence I’ve actually come to expect because I know how my brain works. It runs to sequels and spinoffs. In fact, I’m more surprised when my stories don’t lead to a series. I really should be writing screenplays.
And now here we are at the end of the blog. I’m sure you were expecting it, just not quite so soon. Surprise!