Several years ago, as I neared completion of the first book of my current fantasy series, Chronicles of Calan, as I tried to calm my mind for sleep, I thought about my story and in my mind followed it all the way to the end. I did this at night, as I tried to calm my mind for sleep, and surprisingly the story stayed with me in the morning so I used it to outline books two and three. These are the broad brush strokes that I use to map my way through each chapter.
Now, one thing about my characters, which may be true of most writers, is that they are very much alive in my head. Almost all, even the ones who only appear on the page for a paragraph or two, have an elaborate backstory that maybe I only ever know, but it helps me determine their motivation, their actions, their dialogue. So many times I will refer to these characters as if they truly exist outside my imagination.
Anyway, every once in a while I find as I am writing, taking my characters down this path that I have envisioned, clearly knowing exactly where I want us to go, I get high-jacked. A character will resist what I have outlined as the dialogue or the action, and I find myself writing something completely different than what I have in the outline. Most of the times, these new scenes are not only much better and fit the character’s personality much better, but they tie in much better with other parts of the books than what I had outlined. So most of the time, I leave these detours in without question.
This past weekend, as I worked on the final third of book #2, my writing took a turn that I questioned then and now, a couple of days later, still question. These new events make the book a bit darker than I had ever intended. Interestingly enough the new parts include a particularly narcissistic character who had been relegated a very small bit part. In this current form of the story, while this character is not exactly a tier one player, they have an elevated presence in book #2. So maybe it is nothing more than a narcissist trying to get attention.
A part of me, however, is reluctant to continue down this path of darkness, even though I feel it may enhance the story line and make the plot a bit more realistic. So I have a couple of questions, one for readers and one for writers…
For readers: When reading a series or a trilogy, if the whole essence of the genre changes during the course of the books, does this bother you?
My most recent example of this would be Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes trilogy. The first book was pretty much a straight detective novel without any real supernatural “Stephen King” type of voodoo, but book three was so classic Stephen King. Personally I thought it worked, but I like Stephen King’s writings so his weirdness did not deter me.
For writers: Do you stick to your outline or do you give your characters room to roam?
I would love to hear back from readers and writers on this!
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