I lay awake last night wondering what a character in a story I am working on was going to do next. How is it possible for characters to create their own story? Sit back and let them. They may surprise you.
I suppose some writers start off with outlines of what their stories are going to be. I start off with a certain character in mind. But, even if I have an idea of who they are, I don’t really know how they are going to react to certain situations. It’s like getting to know someone you have recently met and discovering all their quirks and behaviors. When new characters are introduced to the main character, they also take off on their own. Sometimes I have to rein them in if they get so unruly they are taking the plot in a direction I don’t want it to go, and sometimes I just let them do their thing. It keeps the story alive.
For instance, in one story, my protagonist meets a character and they start right off the bat fighting—well, more like arguing. It was not my intent--it just happened, so I let them go at it to see where their relationship was going. Well, they bickered throughout the book, but it worked to bring out the snarky side of my main character.
But how do you know when to build suspense and to wrap the story up? For some reason, the characters tell me when they are ready. Somehow, they create their own conflicts, drive the story to climax, and wind down to a conclusion.
Once they are done with their story, I go back and revise a few times, shaping it into something resembling enjoyable reading material. They make me laugh, cry, and continue to amaze me at their ability to tell their own story.