I love playing The Sims.
There’s just something so oddly entertaining about taking control of a character, creating a story, and then telling them what to do. One Sim skips work to swim all day while the other practically lives at the office. Another Sim flirts with every person that walks in the room while the other stays faithful to that one, special love. One Sim is lucky and gets everything handed to him easily while the other Sim gets a shock just for trying to fix the kitchen sink.
But if you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that sometimes the Sim doesn’t follow your command. Yes, that Sim will purposely skip eating dinner and will near themselves to starvation just so they can binge watch the television for ten hours straight. No matter how many times you tell them they must eat that macaroni and cheese to live, somehow the news is more important.
I’ve found in writing that my characters must think they’re Sims. No matter what I tell them to do-what to say, how to act, or where to go-they somehow don’t listen. They somehow go off on their own accord, even if it’s a bad idea.
Perhaps you’ve had it happen in your story. You’re writing a scene and the plot is unfolding perfectly. Everything is going to plan and you can’t help but pleased at how smoothly everything is going for once!
And then it happens. As you are writing, your character does something drastic and strays from the original plan. The story changes and suddenly chaos erupts as everything you thought your story was going to tell is thrown out the window because the character didn’t listen.
It happened to me recently as I was writing the second book in my series. Everything was good until I started writing a scene with a certain minor character. As I was writing, oblivious to the world around me, an idea popped into my head, and before I could rationally think the character’s actions out, it ended up on paper. A new scene, a new plot point, and a twist that suddenly turned the story upside down.
All because the minor character didn’t follow the original plan.
I joke, of course, that my minor character had a mind of his/her own, but how many times (as writers) have we been in this predicament? When the story doesn’t go to plan and suddenly a new story emerges in the middle of writing. It’s frustrating for me at times when it happens, as I’m the kind of writer who enjoys planning things, but far too often I find the story moving away from the plan and creating its own unique path.
And in this situation, it wasn’t a bad thing. Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a plot twist was developed that gave a whole new meaning to the series. Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a once minor character suddenly developed a major role that basically altered the future for everyone in the story. Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a typical story soon became deeper and more involved (and in my opinion, more interesting).
When I play The Sims, allowing my Sims to take the reins of their own free will doesn’t always produce good choices (I’m still waiting on that one Sim to eat the macaroni and cheese.) But sometimes, as writers, when we allow our story to “write itself”, so to say, the product can be good. Maybe even great. It’s good to stick to a plan, but I’ve found in my own writing it’s even better to be open to spontaneity as well. Inspiration and creativity are rarely on a schedule, and when it arrives you can’t help but take advantage of it.
Even if it makes your minor character not listen to the plan.