Fiction and Discipline

Is it a strength or a weakness that I can’t control my characters for shit?

When I start a new story, I usually sit down knowing the general themes to cover, plus a vague idea of how the plot should be structured. I’ve never done a thorough outline, because I’m never sure what kind of story I want to tell until I get going.

It’s kind of a plus and a drawback that this approach often leads to lots of surprises. Potential plot points run through my head and get rejected, dozens of stories expanding and collapsing before I begin to figure out what the hell I’m doing.

What worries me is that I might just totally lack discipline. I’m less like the god of my story than an ineffective substitute teacher, yelling at unruly children to sit down. My characters do their thing and the story becomes whatever it becomes.

I’m feeling insecure this morning, like my process may be more of a weird hobby than Actual Serious Writing. I mean, whatever it is, I fully intend to continue doing it because it’s, you know, that thing that gives my life meaning. I may need to experiment with other approaches sometime, though. Just to see what happens.

 


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