An Author's Journey Part 3 - Surprise Endings

Parts 1 and 2 were about character and setting creation. The next challenge that we, as authors, have is bringing it all together into a storyline. As I mentioned in part 1, my first fiction idea came from an artificial situation I created in my mind. "What if my wife or I had to carry out our ten-year promise to each other of Till Death Do Us Part?" What would she want, then based on what she would want, how do I carry out her wishes without her? In The Ghost Between Us, Anna wants Toby to keep living his life. Go on an Alaskan Cruise, keep writing, and following his passion of landscape photography. Get that "forever house" in the mountains of Tennessee. As paranormal enthusiasts, she also tells him to keep chasing ghosts, but don't come looking for her. That was enough for me to write a full trilogy. I knew instantly that the house he was going to buy would be haunted; but who's haunting it, and why? That created a whole new situation. When I started writing, it was like entering a long dark corridor. I knew the situation around me, but had no idea what was coming.

Stephen King wrote in his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, that he doesn't believe in plotting out a story. Listening to his audiobook, I learned the concept of situational writing. One example he used, was, "What if there was a Mother and child trapped in a car by a rabid dog." The result of situational writing is that no one can anticipate what's going to happen next; not even the author. The author writes the situation and keeps writing. And writes some more. And then more. Based on the character we created, we determine what they would do from page to page in the situation we put them in. Over time, the story comes to life, like lighting striking Dr. Frankenstein's experiment. Before we're aware, things start happening that even we didn't expect.

Now, I didn't plot out the entire story, but I had to answer questions for each situation I put my characters into. When I was done, an outline of sorts, was developed. It took a couple of weeks of imagination to create the timeline, but I knew very quickly how the series was going to end, but had no idea how the characters would get to the ending. Ideas flowed and I wrote my first book in about 3 months. When I go back and read it now, I can't remember the moment of creation; the moment that I thought to myself, "Oooh, here's what I'll have him do." The reason I can't remember that is because I had no idea what was going to happen. After all, it wasn't me in that situation, it was the fictional characters in my book that had a life inside and outside the pages I wrote. The ending to all three books were a surprise to me and I felt the same anticipation as I've heard from some of my readers of what was going to happen next. I didn't even know. When it was time to write again, I re-read the previous two chapters of the last book and reminded myself of the situation in which I put my main characters. BOOM!!! A new story.

In part 4, let's discuss situations we put our characters into that we've never been in, so we don't know how to write them out of the situation. Sometimes, as authors, we feel as though our imagination was taken from us. Other times, we find ourselves between action scenes. How do we transition from one action scene to the next? When we first started our story, we pulled the strings on our little marionettes to make them move. After a while, they lose their strings and take off somewhere that we didn't expect. Where did they go?

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