“Ah ha!” I said, hitting the ‘x.’ “Ha! Beaten! Done!”
I really was done. Finished. 100,000-ish words, totally finitoed. Well, kinda. I mean sure there’d be like three redrafts and whole scenes would need to be chopped or added. But the first full draft of Covenanted, my 17th century Scotland-based work of historical fiction, was finished. So I saved and hit the big red ‘x’ and bade farewell to that chubby Word document until I could bear to open it again and start the revision. Which, as it turned out, was the next day.
And a very nasty surprise was waiting for me.
I read through the last two chapters, and read them again, and realised something terrible had happened. Someone had kidnapped my novel.
Now, I’ve read all about other people’s experiences with this subject. I’ve seen plenty of stories about how some characters grow so much that they develop a personality which changes the plot their creator has planned out for them. ‘Oh come on’ I thought whenever I heard these tall tales. Really? You actually had to change your novel because one of the imaginary people you’ve invented for it says so? Good one. The idea of that happening seemed almost as absurd as ‘writer’s block (more about that one in another post).’ It’s all just a ploy to make us writers sound intriguing and mysterious to ye commone non-wryter lay-folk.
My arrogance was in for a shock. As I re-read those last two chapters and cross-referenced them with the Big as Hell plot chart I’d drawn up in Scrivener I was forced to accept the following conclusion – my heroine, Janet, had kidnapped my novel.
Covenanted’s ending was supposed to have a certain atmosphere. Not quite cynical, but kinda downbeat. The story finishes on the cusp of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the bloodiest period in the history of the British Isles. Some bad s**t is coming, and the characters know it. Janet gets divorced, not embittered but certainly worldlier after her adventures throughout the novel. But that wasn’t the ending I was reading in my Word document.
Apparently Janet wanted a happy ending. Apparently rather than divorcing her partner, the arrogant young royalist Sir Thomas, she decided to renew her vows with him. That wasn’t supposed to happen, was it? Are my own characters really dictating the ending of my novel to me now? It sure seems like it.
I’m going to sit Janet and Thomas down in a small, barred room and give them a sharp talking-to. If, having done that, we come to the conclusion that their way really is best then, well… we’ll take it from there. God only knows how I’ll survive in life if my own imaginary characters don’t even do what I tell them.