One of the things I've always loved about writing is how much control characters have over a story. I love how they reach out, grab your intentions, and twist them to their own designs. I think the whole process of it is interesting and I think it goes even further, too.
I've mentioned in the past how there are three elements involved before any line can be written, and that is terribly relevant to the conversation. Every writer's intention actually as a very wide range of possibilities for fulfillment. Sometimes the characters agree, sometimes they don't and often they surprise you. Whenever I find myself facing one of those “writer's block” moments (I don't believe in writer's block, by the way) there begins this period of introspection. I cannot tell you how many times I have literally written within my notes “What are we thinking here?” or “What are we doing here?” There are a finite number of ways to ask oneself that question, and I'm pretty sure I've touched on most, but what's interesting is that this is the period where the writer begins exploring parallel dimensions.
First we try forcing the story through the pinhole that is our concept. We fray the premise and the line that leads us to the quandary, and we try to ignore the angels dancing upon the head of the pin that marks our place in the story. Then, when we've had enough of that, we grab a needle with a bigger eye. It is always interesting to me, discovering that I'm at that point. That's when the real magic happens. And I ask myself why it took so long to reach this point. (Hint: writers are stubborn.)
This is why I don't actually believe in writer's block. I've mentioned this to a few people in the past, and now I'm telling the world definitively that it doesn't exist. What it really is, and has always been, is the subconsciousness reaching up and stopping the conscious mind from making a mistake. It's the characters reaching out saying, “Na uh. I'm not doing that. I would never say that.” That's when we, the writer look up from our books with a confused expression upon our face saying something along the lines of “What the hell are you talking about?” And we go back to character building, which, depending on how far along we are, is actually character exploring. We start asking, “Why don't you want to do that?” And as we continue conversing, an epiphany happens. Suddenly, we know what happens next. And suddenly, somehow, we've reached the end of the scene and are getting lost in the next.
I face this issue often. I'm actually hiding from such an exploration right now, couched in the veil of blogging, and pretending that I can't see the characters waiting expectantly for me to catch up. Eventually I will. But I do face this issue often. How does the scene begin? How do we make this transition within the scene to the next point? How does this moment feed into the next scene? What am I missing? What don't I know? These are all questions I ask myself, to quote a friend, “on the regular.” But eventually, I catch up.
There are a thousand ways the same story can unfold; a thousand reasons the characters can make the same choice. But in our work, there is only one true way. While we might refine the phrasing and flesh out the presentation, hide the wires and paint the scene differently, in the end, the characters know their own ways home. The struggle for us as writers is remembering how to follow their lead.