25 February 2014

When Your Character Writes Itself to the Edge of a Cliff

 I'm working on a short story lately and I feel as if my character and I are a little bit like Thelma and Louise.

We are looking over the cliff in our car and I look at my character and I wonder how on Earth she brought me here.

 And my character says, "Let's keep going!"

 And I look at her and think she's losing it. "Are you sure?"  I ask, knowing full well what will happen if I press the gas pedal.

 "Yeah," she says. "We did it!"

 This is a beautiful way to end a story and usually it's that teary eyed feeling I think a lot of writers get when you end up saying goodbye to a character. But it's usually not how you want to begin the rising action of a story. You see, when they drive off the cliff, the credits roll. You don't see how the car hits the bottom of the cliff, the clean up that happens, the police activity, and all that other gunk.

 Whenever I have written myself into a corner like this, I end up tracking backwards a little bit to try to find my way back to the main road.

And I can't help but end up feeling like this -


  1. This is so true. You at least handle it better than me. I simply procrastinate about how to fix it instead of backtracking and finding a way out.

    1. It's so hard! I've tried to get disciplined about fixing it rather than letting the story putter out. But it's like the story itself becomes draggy until I find my way!

  2. Sometimes going off a cliff is a great way to stimulate the brain (a little panic often helps), but even if it ends in disaster I think ending up in the wrong place is part of the process of figuring out how to get to the right place.

    Moody Writing

    1. Definitely true! Sometimes the wrong place is better than you think it would be!

  3. My characters throw me curveballs all the time, but they always know how to get out of them—if they're meant to.

    1. Oh that's always good :) The stubborn ones are the worst!

  4. This happens to me all the time, Nicole! I feel ya. I'm on my third attempt and am way too cautious anymore. Maybe I too need to just let them drive themselves. :)

  5. I agree with Kelly that you have to listen to the character and maybe this character has led you where she should go and instead of backtracking sit back and think about what would happen next. Maybe your best character yet will emerge from the wreckage and take the story to an amazing place you couldn't find with the character who has committed Hari kari.

    Go with it and see where it leads. You can always to back and start over if you are not happy with this alternate path takes you.

    Have fun!

  6. I love it when our characters are courageous and we are not. It's almost like they are daring us to be as brave as them, and then I wonder who is really more alive.


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