Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Downside to Discovery Writing

Discovery writing can be such a joy.  I marvel at what my muse does, what she shows me and where she takes me.  I enjoy nothing better than discovering my story as I go.  But, I've learned there is a downside to writing this way.

March 17th, 2012, minutes before midnight, it happened.  I didn't mean for it to happen.  It just did.  It wasn't my intention. From out of the blue it came.  I stared at the monitor in shock, unable to accept that my fingers had typed the words.  I was horrified at how chapter 32 was ending.  I all but wept.  I had killed a character.

This is not a trivial matter.  Not to me.  This character was pivotal.  I liked him.  A lot!  It doesn't matter that his death was valiant and noble.  It doesn't matter that my protagonist is where he is because of him.  The deed is done.  And now I'm mourning the loss.  I was not prepared.

This was a wise character, a gentle soul.  His voice was uniquely his own.  I had plans for him.  He had a revelation to share with the protagonist.  Now that revelation will have to come from elsewhere.  He enriched the tale.  And he was a joy to write.

This wise character would tell me it was necessary and show me how and why things will be better because of it.  He'd point out to me the numerous avenues where this tale can go now, the many plot lines that will develop as the result.  He'd tell me these things and try to comfort me.  I know he'd be right, but it doesn't change anything.  Not really.  I saw the impossible unfolding before my eyes and kept on writing.

I knew he wasn't destined to last until the end of the series.  I've known for a very long time what his final words were supposed to be.  He never said them.  He never got the chance.

I'm rambling a bit.  I realize that.  But we do that sometimes when we lose someone we love.  We try to make sense of it.  Why him?  Why now?  Why did I keep going?  I wanted to turn off the computer and forget to click Save.  Never before have I loathed to click that toolbar button.  Never until now.

The upside to Discovery Writing is that it gives you wonderful, unexpected gifts: unplanned scenes, beautiful dialog, enticing settings and even enthralling plot.  The downside to Discovery Writing is that it can take away those very same gifts.

This was a sacrifice he was willing to make.  It seems he was more willing to make it than I was.

Rest in peace, beloved.  May your journey to Dreyhurst be swift.  
You will be remembered.  You will be missed.


  1. Killing a character hurts, but it gets easier the more you do it.

    1. But why must it be the ones we love? Don't answer that. I know the answer... But part of me hopes that it never becomes too easy. Don't ask me why.

    2. No it's never easy, just a little easier.

  2. My plot requires me to kill off at least four characters by the end of the first book and virtually all of them by the end of the series. My only difficulty is going to be in making them compelling enough for the deaths to actually sting, which you seem to have accomplished, at least for yourself. Plus, you can always revive him in editing if you really want to. I guess I should stop commenting on your old posts and get today's flash fiction done... Nice post and good day to you.

    1. Part of me still regrets the events of that fateful night. A couple of my beta readers were none too happy about it also. I suppose that means they grew to care for him too. I even half considered "Obi-Wanifying" him, but felt it would somehow cheapen both his character and his death.

      Four major characters in book one? I'm curious as to what percentage of the ensemble that is, especially since you mentioned "virtually all" by the end of the series. Do they bite the bullet in the same scene or are their deaths more spread out?

      And comment on any post you like, Patrick. I like the fact that some of these older posts are still being read from time to time. :)

    2. My fantasy series take the standard concept of most fantasy novels--Good versus Evil--and puts a spin on it: there is complete balance of the two. As it stands now, my characters are on the scale of The Hobbit, a band of twelve knights, along with a few other characters at different times. The antagonist and eleven of his lackeys have awakened from a two hundred year slumber in accordance with the band of assembling knights. The knights are representative of true virtue, while the antagonistic group (for now they're dragons, although I may later change them into something only similar to dragons, as it's becoming quite cliche) are representative of true vice. Every time a dragon is slain a knight must perish to keep the balance. One death will take place at about the one-third mark, while the other three will take place in what will either be the final or penultimate chapter.

    3. Curious. Are the twelve knights aware of the required sacrifice (to maintain balance) or is that a conclusion that the reader is allowed to draw from the story itself?

    4. It's supposed to be dramatic irony, so no, they don't know. If readers are clever they'll figure it out in the prologue, if not, they should catch on soon enough. The characters will probably catch on at some point as well; I haven't really thought about that yet, as I don't do a whole lot of outlining.