Twenty-seven years ago today, about 2:00 in the morning, I became a mom for the second time. Our eldest son was born. He was a tiny thing, not even 5 pounds in weight. So short, we could put his head in the palm of our hands, his little feet coming barely to our elbows. But he was fine, healthy and full term. I could launch into a tale of woe about how hard the labor and delivery was, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
Writing is a little bit like giving birth. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. A story is part of the author, just as a child is. It comes from the imagination, blooming, growing and blossoming into the finished product. The characters grow and change just like a baby. From infancy, they have their own quirks and personality. They make decisions and do what they want.
I know some of you probably think I’m talking through my hat here, but it’s true. I’m always proud when my characters take control and tell their story the way they want. I think that’s why I have so much trouble writing even simple non-fiction things. I don’t have the help of my characters. It’s all me—and honestly, I’m not that smart and talented. (Okay, I am…. But one must pretend humility from time to time, mustn’t one?)
Some of the questions I like to ask my guest authors on my radio show focus on their approach to writing. Do they outline? Do they know the outcome before beginning? Do their characters take over and write the story for them? Have they ever been surprised by the outcome?
To answer these questions myself:
I never outline anything. My stories go where they will. I make notes and keep them in binders on my desk. I should invest in post-it notes because I use so many of them, I could float a third world country.
I rarely know the outcome of my stories. I might have a general idea of where I want to go, but usually it goes in a completely different direction fairly early. One novel went so far off the path, I was stunned. I’d started out as a mystery/ romance novel and ended up a paranormal romance instead. Weird!
Do my characters take over and write the story for me? Constantly. Sometimes they give it back near the end, but generally they keep control. This is probably a good thing cause they get me into such big messes, I can’t find my way out without help. It’s embarrassing!
Am I ever surprised about the outcome? Yes. That’s another constant, like the characters writing it for me. Once I relinquish control, it’s anyone’s guess where the story will go.
So, I said all that because I wanted to tie having a child to writing a story. I also want to wish my son a Happy Birthday!!
Dellani Oakes is a slightly confused and not quite but almost entirely crazy author for Second Wind Publishing. Her books “Indian Summer” and “Lone Wolf” are available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon.com, Smashwords and bn.com
© 2011 Dellani Oakes