Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Happy Accidents

Happy accident is a phrase one of my art teachers in college used constantly. He was a rather unlikeable guy, and we mocked him for it, but now I use the phrase (idiom?) Isn't it awful how that happens--you hear something often enough, and it stops sounding strange or unusual. That's how slang catches on, but I digress. "Happy accident" is not something I say about art often, but a phrase I find myself applying to parts of my writing.

I'm a planner, for the most part. I tried the 'pantzer' thing for years, but I never finished a novel until I began outlining. I may have very detailed plans for myself with complete summaries of scenes and bits of dialogue, but the bulk of any given outline tends to contain terribly vague sentences like "xxx will find the bad guy somehow and be injured in the subsequent fight." (Okay, usually I'm not that bad...) The very detailed parts of the outline are usually 'candy' scenes. The scenes that won't leave me alone and I can't wait to get them down on the page. The rest tends to be vague enough that I have plenty of wiggle room without diverting from the outline--which I'm not opposed to doing--while still giving me enough structure to know where I need to be headed next.

The wiggle room is where happy accidents tend to occur. I know I need to get from point A to point B, and I have a general idea how I want to do it, but then somewhere between the outline, my brain, and the keyboard, something new pops up. It might be a character I didn't know existed, a shiny way to work in a plot point, or a bit of a twist I didn't see coming. (And people think writers are in the driving seat...ha! Not this one,) Case in point: the other day I was writing a scene, and a few hundred words in, I stopped because I was afraid it was rehashing what I'd already established the scene before. A minor character had popped up, and his conversation with my main character, while interesting didn't further the plot any. So, I cut the scene, tossed it in my scrap folder, and back tracked to where the plot was supposed to be. No problem right? Wrong. I was stuck. I knew where I wanted to go, but I couldn't figure out why my character would put herself in the middle of the messy situation I needed to get her to. After accomplishing nothing for awhile, I pulled the deleted scene back out of the scrap folder, pasted it where it had been, tightened the dialogue, and just let it play out. Darned if that silly minor character didn't get my MC where she needed to go. It doesn't always work that way, and in subsequent drafts that scene might get cut again if I think of a better way to do it, but for now it tied point A to point B.

Does anyone else find yourself writing in things you don't plan, but that unplanned element ends up adding something exciting to the story or tying plots together in interesting new ways? A happy accident, if you will?

Current progress:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
52,142 / 95,000

My goal is to reach 60k by the end of the week, so I really need to start pushing (it's Wednesday already, geesh.)

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