Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March (Has Your Story Ever Been Hijacked?)

Today, March 15 is known as the 'Ides of March', the word Ides referring to the Latin word for middle, according to Wikipedia.
The reason the terms Ides of March is well known has to do with two things – history, and writing.
The History part revolves around Julius Caesar (this info is all taken from the same Wikipedia site). Apparently he was assassinated on this day, stabbed to death by a large number of co-conspirators, several of which were friends/colleagues. The interesting part about his murder is that it was predicted by a seer – a prophecy that Caesar was aware of. because he apparently refuted the prophecy when the day fortold arrived and he was still breathing, telling the same seer, “The Ides of March have come,” (aka I'm still here, aren't I? Better get a different day job...)
To which the seer replied, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.” (aka, it's not midnight yet, Cinderella)
And he died soon after. On the Ides of March, as prophesied by the seer.
The writing part came when Shakespeare dramatized the assassination in his play Julius Caesar.

I was thinking about this little tidbit of trivia today because of an experience I recently had. The other day I was working on a scene in my current WIP that I had meticulously plotted and imagined. I had done so much 'internal' world building that the words were flowing quite effortlessly. I knew where the scene started, where I wanted it to end, and what I needed to happen in the middle to make it all come together.
I continued to work along, enjoy the process and pleased with my ever growing word count.
And then something unexpected happened.
A new character appeared. And inserted herself into my scene. And changed the plot ever so slightly.
Wait a minute – where did she come from?
Now by new, a don't mean materialized out of thin air. She was a character introduced in the very beginning of the novel to build setting/relationship/etc., but because I had no further purpose beyond that, I forgot about her!
Some characters, however, will not be forgotten.
Curious to see the point of this intrusion, I allowed her some room to explain her purpose for interrupting my previously smooth plot line.
She did her bit, said her piece, and disappeared as quickly as she came. For good? Who knows?! Apparently she has her own agenda when it comes to my story.
I sat back and took a close look at the wrench she threw in my plans. When I was completely honest with myself, I realized I liked the way she had changed the scene. I liked the complications she had introduced. She enriched the story.
While this is not a new experience for me (I've had lots of characters do unexpected things while I was writing), it was what came to mind while I read the fun facts on Caesar and The Ides of March.
Mandi: “The middle of this scene has effortlessly come.”
Not-to-be-forgotten character “Aye, writer, but it has not gone.”
You just never know what will happen when you write. Maybe that's why we love writing so much!
What about you? Ever had your writing hijacked by your own characters (major or minor)?


  1. Those who are not writers would think we are crazy, Mandi, but I totally know what you're talking about. That hasn't happened to me so far, but I have had times when my brain has been tired from writing and my main characters start doing completely out-of-character things that actually make me laugh out loud. I have to delete them, of course, but it's fun to see what kind of goofy antics they'll pull when I start to zone out. :-)

    1. Lol, sometimes I wonder how crazy they really must think we are - they way we carry on about voice in our head. But like you said, it's one of the best parts of writing.

  2. This problem is extremely annoying during the editing stage, once you've got through the first draft and think your just going to have a few scene adjustments here and there. Your tapping along and suddenly its like, "Wait, I just upped my word count another thousand and why on earth did that kid have to start throwing skittles at everyone?!!!"

    1. Umm, I love skittles! I agree, it can be annoying when characters won't listen and start food fights instead...

  3. I JUST went through this!!!

    A minor (very, very minor) storyline was being tweaked, just for clarity, to add a joke or two... and then, all of a sudden, it feels a little too comfy, a little too connection-filled, and I realize these characters had started dating!!!

    And now I sound like a crazy person.

    1. We have to be crazy, by non-writer terms. That's what makes our stories interesting. It's fun to hear someone else having the same experience.

  4. I remember reading something about Stephanie Meyers explaining herself for the "Edward asks Jacob to father babies for Bella" scene (someone accused her of Edward going too far). She said that Edward's actions surprised her too, that his desperation took over the story and he went beyond what she had planned. And, like it's been mentioned, the non-writers scoffed. I have never agreed with that particular decision of Edward's (shudder), but I never doubted the believablity of it. That's what makes writing so dang awesome. When we've spent SO much time building a character, sometimes they do grab the keys and spin out of the driveway, and we get to follow and see what happens. :D Cool post.



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