Since I prefer to know my endings in order to have a sense of where I am “going” in a story, I usually do not start until I have at least a fairly good grasp of my characters, plot, and resolution. Even with this “security,” in the course of writing I frequently veer off into unforeseen directions, and occasionally wind up changing my original ending. Still, the fact that I think I know where I’m going gives me the nerve to begin a story in the first place.
This winter, though, I have been stuck for quite a while on several different projects and so I decided to try a different approach. For one story I had a few characters, a setting, some scene ideas, and a quest. I knew where the characters would go and where they would physically end up, but I didn’t really have a firm grasp on who these characters were, what would happen along their journey, or what would serve as the climactic emotional turning point. So I dove in and just started writing. This was dangerous territory for me—shutting off my inner critic and allowing myself to simply explore the world I was inventing as I went along without worrying about whether it would all work out or not. I figured, “Hey, at least I’m writing.” To my (grateful) surprise, characters began evolving, new scenes started popping into my brain, and I stumbled upon an emotional climax that was both unintended and satisfying!
I still like to know where I’m going in a story, but if I’m stuck, I learned this winter that I don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike—I can go find it!