Who’s in Charge Here?

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by Beth Shriver

I find my stories taking on a life of their own at times. I think I’m going one way with the plot and it turns a corner without asking me. The same goes for characters. You think you have this imaginary friend all figured out, and then they do something you never thought they would. I don’t remember even thinking of some of the things that I write as they appear on the page.

I was really stumped by the heroine in the present story I’m writing. She started out being somewhat of a pushover, a pleaser, and the next thing I know she’s putting the hero in his place. Then she ends up with another guy all together. Could have fooled me, and she did :). Whereas in the first story, Annie’s Truth, the main character is more predictable, but that’s not to say the rest of the characters were. Can’t everyone just get along?

I came across an article in the Smithsonian magazine interviewing Judy Blume. She started out by saying that writing is incredibly hard for her. What writer can’t appreciate that, and love the honesty of her sharing it. She also claimed that she’s not the world’s best mother. But everyone expects her to be due to the type of books she writes, mainly about coming-of-age issues. Blume said there’s so much she doesn’t know when she starts writing a book, and that’s the best part of writing for her. The surprises along the way. When writing her most popular book, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, she thought she was writing about organized religion, yet the book became famous for dealing with puberty. People glossed over the personal relationship Margaret has with God.

It makes me wonder how much control we really have as authors. I write all over the place, which is obvious by my pushy heroine bossing me around. But between the independent characters, the wayward plots, and readers taking away something different than what you meant for them to, I get a little confused. This was my idea to start with, right?

I try to cover three elements in each of my books: A faith element, a takeaway that hasn’t been overused, and a relevant topic to motivate discussion. But frequently, by the time the story is finished I look back and they have all changed into something different. Like the Amish hero in my story, Season of the Spirit, leaving the community to experience rumspringa (running around) in the city, became second to the heroine going, but she went for a completely different reason, to evangelize. I don’t know where she came up with the idea, but I liked it.

In 2003 Beth Shriver began writing her first book. A couple of years later it was published and she has been writing ever since. Beth received a degree in social work from the University of Nebraska and was a case worker before starting a family. Beth followed her passion and has written in a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Literary Agency.

Comments 0

  1. You are singing to the choir as they say. I long gave up the idea that I’m in charge of the story. Okay, not long gave up, but in my most recent writings, it’s quit obvious that I am not holding the reigns. My recent attempt started as a simple cop novel and then this kid, not planned for, jumped in and took over. Now its more a coming of age, late in life. The pro-tag is in her mid forties. Sometimes, you have to let the characters show you.

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