Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Help! My Story's Being Hijacked!

I'm a great believer in plotting, so that I have some kind of outline to work with. I think that this helps to make sure that the story has a solid construction, the plot is realistic and credible, and that I tie up all the loose ends at the end. So far so good. When I wrote my YA Perfect Summer, that worked fine. But sometimes when I start writing I find that it doesn't always work out exactly to my well-constructed plan.

Take the book I'm currently writing. It started off well. I had the main character, the sidekick, the theme and the plot all sorted out so I settled down to write. The first chapter flowed okay, the second chapter started to stumble, by the time I got to the third chapter I knew I was in trouble. The sidekick was hijacking the story and turning it into their own. Not only that they were changing the viewpoint. I started off in third person viewpoint, this is the way the story seemed to flow better, but suddenly the sidekick was talking in first person. It was all about her. Me, me, me. I tried to control her but she wasn't having it. It was the same plot but it was from her point of view which made it completely different. And - I was forced to admit by the time I was on chapter four - better. So there was nothing else for it but go back and change the first three chapters and let my sidekick become the heroine. A change like that alters the whole dynamics of a story and it can be tempting to stick to the Plan and carry on writing the story how you intended to, to keep to the outline or synopsis but I've learnt from experience that if a character wants to take over, let them.

I've done a lot of commissioned work and sometimes my stories are 'hijacked' by editors who want me to change something. I even had one case when I had to change the sex of my main character and the sidekick - quite a major change as obviously you can't just replace 'he' with 'she'. Girls and boys talk, act, walk and respond to situations differently. Not an easy task!

Sometimes, my story is hijacked by an unexpected turn of events. I'm writing away when something happens, something I hadn't plotted or planned for but found myself writing. And it works. So I carry on writing to see where it takes me. Sometimes it doesn't work, I find that I've gone off on a tangent that takes me away from the story I want to write so I pull back. Other times, it works out really well and I love the new roads the story has taken.

What about you? Is your story ever hijacked and if so do you keep to your plan or see where it takes you?

Karen King writes all sorts of books for children. Check out her website at


Jenni said...

I've not actually written all that many stories, but I did enter the last NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month-write 50,000 words in 30 days) and really enjoyed the experience of creating something. I found that half way through my story my characters started falling for each other-I tried to tell them that was stupid but they seemed quite adamant. It seemed to work out in the end.

Karen said...

Hi Jenni, congratulations on entering NaNoWriMo. Working to a deadline like this can really make you focus on getting your story down. And if your characters insist on falling for each other, what can you do but go with the flow. :) Did it all end happily ever after? x Karen