Who’s Really in Control?

I love starting a new story. A blank page, or computer screen in today’s world, is filled with so many possibilities. I usually begin with a character. If I’m lucky that character might just pop into my head right out of the blue, and start speaking to me the way Pru Burbidge did when I wrote Bitter, Sweet.

Once I have my main character in place I have faith that the plot will eventually unfold. I usually have a broad sense ahead of time of what’s going to take place. It’s just a matter of moving from one scene to the next. I know— it sounds so simple. Doesn’t it?  Things tend to go along quite smoothly when we stay in control and we writers do have complete control over the page.

Um…Did I say complete control?

Maybe not so complete.

Sometimes a writer may have one idea about the story they’re working on, but one of their characters might not be so cooperative. Easy to get in a tug-of-war over some seemingly small issue all because some know it all doesn’t want to do things our way. We say go left but, oh no, they insist on going right. Who do they really think they are? Talk about ungrateful!  I mean, we’re the ones who create these characters, we breathe life into them, give them names, we are right there when they utter their first words on the page. But then we let them take those first few steps unattended, and the first thing we know they want to run the whole show.

I’m pretty sure most writers have come up against this exact scenario at one time or another. It might sound rather strange to those of you who do not write fiction, but I can assure you that many of the writers who are reading this are likely nodding their heads. Sometimes a writer thinks they have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in a story, and right when we think we have it figured out we discover that we were totally mistaken.The story takes a completely different turn altogether. We end up scratching our heads in dismay.

I’m reminded of how in “real life” we become exasperated with the people around us for these exact reasons. We can’t understand why they make the choices they do or, why they fail to take our advise or, live up to our expectations. Why won’t they just do it the way we would? Why do they insist upon going their own way?

A good writer must sometimes  just allow a character to choose their own path, especially when said character is totally capable of making their own decisions. Just as a writer might have to relinquish control over their plots, so is it true in real life. There is no point in our becoming annoyed at someone simply because we cannot control the decisions they make. It is their life after all. As I write this I’m reminded of a particular person in my life, whose failure to meet  with change, often causes me grit my teeth. But I know it is my own selfishness, my own need to control their behaviour, that causes me irritation. I know that my annoyance really has nothing to do with their behaviour at all.  So from now on I’m going to practise acceptance and understing. They are just being the person they are. and nothing more. I may sometimes need to remind myself of this  from time to time, but I’m certainly going to make an effort.

I’ll push aside my own need to control, my own wrong beliefs that somehow I know what’s best for this person, just as I would for one of my character who keeps insisting left when I said right.

Acceptance often does lead to a peaceful ressolution. Doesn’t it?

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