I had another lesson this week in why the outline means nothing when characters take over the story. It’s always initially scary, (“but…but… I already planned this, and it was perfect!”) but at the end of the day if I could give the reins to my characters 100% of the time, I would.
In my outline, I had a fight scheduled for this particular scene. It was one of those heart-ripping fights with top of the lungs shouting and storming away and that lingering sense of “I never got to apologize.” I was really excited for it: running through snippets of dialog in my head all day, deciding how my character’s face would contort in fury, trying to find a unique way to say his hands became fists.
And then I got to the scene, and the fight just refused to happen. Refused. Sometimes I can force dialog onto the page even though it isn’t true to the character, but I couldn’t even bring myself to do that. My characters just weren’t angry, and I couldn’t make them angry. They were sad, and eventually I wised up enough to just allow them to be sad and see what the scene looked like through that completely different lens.
As is normally the case in these situations, I was so glad I didn’t follow the outline. And maybe that’s the other thing I learned this week: there are so many things more powerful than yelling. It’s definitely something I’ll consider next time I insert a shouting match into my outline. And, while I do need outlines to keep me from spending my writing sessions staring out the window, I’ll always hope that characters will make the final decisions for me.
At the end of the day, my characters are better writers than I am, and that’s exactly the way I want it.
Do you have a fun moment of characters saying ‘Nuh-uh’ to your carefully planned scene? Please share below if you do! I love hearing about characters kicking holes in the author’s outlines.