When I was twenty one, I did the whole backpacker thing. I went to Europe, Asia, Australia and a few counties in the northern part of Africa.
This was in the pre-internet era, when the closest thing to a GPS was a Star Trek tricorder. So I couldn’t easily look up locations and places to stay. I had to haul guidebooks around with me. From these books, I regularly made ‘a plan’.
It’s just like writing a novel. It’s very much the same. I have ‘a plan’. A map. I have a direction. An intention. My characters will go from A to B.
Well, I was reminded recently: sometimes characters don’t wanna go from A to B. They want to zig zag to point H. In fact, they want to abandon the alphabet altogether. They want to travel to location ^.
This can be frustrating. WHAT ARE DOING? you want to shout. THIS WAS NOT IN THE ITINERARY!
But it can also be delightful.
On a whim, you are in new territory. Like the time I went from Bath, England (planned, on the itinerary) to Glastonbury (not planned, not on the itinerary) — and loved it so much I stayed for four days. In fact, Glastonbury had such an influence on me, a decade later I HAD to include it in my Regency mystery. It became an integral part of my main characters past.
I also went from Barcelona, Spain (planned, on the itinerary) to Tangier, Morocco (not planned, not on the itinerary) and suddenly found myself taking a road trip with a Brit and an America. Morocco by station wagon! Genesis and Super Tramp on the cassette tape! Quelle suprise!
This happens all the time in life, not just while travelling or writing a novel. So I should probably expect it. But I don’t. Whenever it happens, it feels magical.
I have been touched by the mystical ‘flow’.
So when, in my latest novel, a character suddenly, inadvertently, even reluctantly, becomes a Mary Wolstencraft/William Godwin type proponent for reform…part of me rails against the impulse. This will mean more research for me! This was not THE PLAN!
But, really, I am also thrilled: it’s perfect. It’s exactly where she was meant to be.
Sudden shifts like these = writing magic.
Enjoy the view, my dear. Enjoy the view!