The Gut Reaction

I do it every time. I get to a point while writing when I don’t quite know what to do next. Now, I always have a bit of an outline under my belt. Nothing terribly detailed, but enough of a Point A to Point B to Point C that I’m not completely flailing around in front of my laptop. But then I have to fill in the details, maybe tackle a miniature sub-plot that sprang up from out of nowhere. And that’s when the arguments with myself begin.001

Surely, this scene needs more conflict.

Wait, maybe this one needs less.

Maybe my villain needs to be more villainous.

I should have this character do that thing, since that’s what I see happening in other books of this sort.

And that’s where I realize I’ve gone wrong. When I start comparing my books to others, when I start worrying about how other authors before me have done things, when I start to check the established “rules” about how stories should go, that everything tumbles down around me.

In my current work in progress, I worried that the last act didn’t have enough conflict, that in other books of the genre there’s usually some last, big “showdown” type scene from which someone needs rescued or there’s a fight or there’s… something. And that something is showy and would look great in a movie (or at least the movie I create of it in my mind). Someone needs to be kidnapped, or discover they’re pregnant, or ACTION ROCKS FALL EXPLOSION CUDDLY KISSES AND A VOLCANO WITH MONKEYS AND BANANAS.

But I didn’t have any of that. I have two characters, both of them dealing with their own internal demons (one fighting loyalty to the memory of her family, and her attempts to break free of that, and the other dealing with the guilt of wasting his life and accidentally killing someone in a fight) and overcoming that. That’s it. No swordfights. No carriage chase. Just characters growing and realizing that they’re responsible for their own actions. AND THEN A DRAGON-

No. No dragons.

Just character growth. And realizations. And FEELINGS.

Okay, and maybe a little bit of sassy OH NO YOU DIDN’T dialogue. But definitely no dragons.

Because no matter what I think I’m supposed to do with these stories, whatever template I’m under the belief I have to adhere to, I need to ignore all of that and go with my gut. My gut says, let these people grow and be healed, let them realize that they’re strong enough to walk away from the people hurting them, and… that’s it. Story over. No more unnecessary complications.

And this has happened with other stories, too. When doubt comes in, telling me that I need to do something differently, that I need to shape a scene a certain way because it’s how people will expect it to be shaped.

Again, no. I have to go with that first urge I had, that inkling from the very beginning that said, “Do this and forget everyone else!” (Okay, so the inkling might use a bit more forceful of word beginning with an “F” than “forget”) because it’s almost always right. And if it isn’t right (which is a rare, rare thing) then that’s for me to fix in edits down the line.

But I have to go with my gut. Because that’s when I’m the most honest, when the words are truly mine, before I’ve gone and tried to shape them into what I think they should be. Or, to paraphrase:

That’ll do, gut. That’ll do.

 

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