Thursday, October 18, 2018

When the Writer Loses Control of the Story and the Characters Takes Over

The path a short story takes from inspiration to completion is as wide and varied as short stories themselves. Some authors start with the opening scene while others start with the conclusion and work backward. Some do both. But sometimes the story takes on a life of its own, far different from the author’s original intent.  Author Stephen Terrell discusses the course of creating his short story “Unexpected Gifts.”

“Unexpected Gifts” is the concluding short story in “Homicide for the Holidays,” a collection of a dozen tales of murder, mayhem and even redemption included in Speed City Sisters in Crime's Christmas offering. The hardcover anthology also includes a dozen recipes, each related to a story in the book.  "Homicide for the Holidays” is the perfect Christmas gift for the readers or cooks on your list. The book is now available for pre-order (see below for links).  Release is set for November 1.

Stories Take A Life of Their Own
By Stephen Terrell

My short story “Unexpected Gifts” is quite different than the story I started to write. When I typed out the first words on my computer, the story I envisioned was a dark tragedy of greed, prejudice, and misunderstanding set against a Christmas backdrop. 
But a funny thing happened on the way to the final pages. The characters and the story itself would not let me write what I had in mind. The characters had a different story -- a true Christmas story -- to tell.
“That’s crazy,” you may say.  “You're the one writing the story. You can write anything you want.”
But most writers know that’s not true. A story sometimes takes on its own life and will not let the author have his way. That's what happened with "Unexpected Gifts." The resolution of the story (no, I won’t give it away) is quite different than what was intended when the first pages were written. 
I must admit that the characters knew best. The final version is a much better story than the one I originally planned. Here are the opening paragraphs of “Unexpected Gifts.”

 “Oh, baby, baby, baby! ! !  Momma’s gotta pee.”
Maria Wafford pushed her foot harder on the brake pedal and pulled her knees closer together. She held her breath. If something didn’t move soon, she was going to pee all over the heated white leather seats in her new Mercedes sedan. 
Johnny Mathis came over the seasonal satellite radio channel singing something about marshmallows and Christmas. Maria tried to sing along to get her mind off the intense urge in her bladder, but she couldn’t concentrate enough to follow the words.
“Hurry up. Please!”  The unhearing line of cars creeped forward a car length, then two.  Then stopped.

If you want to know what happens,  you’ll need to buy Homicide for the Holidays and read "Unexpected Gifts." The hardcover is a perfect holiday gift for any reader on your list. 
Pre-orders are now available on Amazon.com (click here)BarnesandNoble.com (click here) and Walmart.com (click here).

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