Blog Post No. 494
Sometimes stories just don’t turn out how you thought they would. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Stories are a mutable thing when they live in your head. They can be anything and everything until they aren’t. When you write them, you solidify the story and eliminate possibilities. To get way too pompous, they’re a lot like a person’s life in that way. We can choose a million different paths, but once we make a decision, the possibilities shrink.
Again, I’m not saying it’s bad. Making a decision is necessary to make any forward progress. Some of biggest struggles I’ve had have been when having to make a choice on what a character does, or what happens to them. It’s tough to have an intangible feeling as to what a story could be, then have to cut away options until it’s a solid lump. Especially since first drafts are always so bad. No matter what path you take, stories don’t end up with the same feeling as the thing in your imagination.
When everything is going well and the characters are strong, they tell me where to go and what to do. It makes the writing much easier, but since I write with a loose plan and deviate often, those strong characters exacerbate the deviation from the initial idea. Ultimately, I think following the natural flow of the characters makes the story stronger. The more I move away from the initial idea, the more I feel a sense of loss when the story is over, though.
*Spoilers for Snow from a Distant Sky, if you haven’t read it yet.*
When writing Snow from a Distant Sky, I had to change a lot for it to fit within The Synthetic Albatross Series. The original idea was a stand-alone book (maybe a novella, it was so long ago I don’t think I gave the details that much thought). The world had much more of a fantasy feeling and the protagonist was meant to wander more. Since the Wall and the portals didn’t exist back then, there was no fixed location for Thomas to go to. I had a bit of a nod to his original final location in the first draft, but it didn’t go anywhere and left the story with a big plot hole, so I had to cut it out.
But, who knows. Maybe if I get the chance to bring Thomas back for more adventures, I can incorporate that idea into a new book. That’s one saving grace with having to cut ideas and feelings in order to solidify a story. Those ideas aren’t gone. The scraps can be collected and used again in a new story.
One of the early (and not so good) stories I wrote on AWP (back in 2014) left me with a feeling that I’d lost something in the writing. I think part of the reason for that story changing so much from idea to conclusion was my inexperience. I was still learning the basics and didn’t have a strong grasp on structure. I distinctly remember the story changing as I wrote it and feeling like I hadn’t scratched the initial itch when I had finished. I believe in my behind the writing post I mentioned that I may want to give the idea a second pass. Maybe I still will, but I have a ton of other stories burring a hole in my idea machine.
Most of them won’t turn out exactly how I imagined, but that’s just how it goes. Like quantum physics changing when observed, stories naturally change when written. There’s not much I can do but revisit those scraps and add them into future stories. Though, there is no guarantee that they won’t get cut out again, and again.