I love receiving the following type of communication from readers, “Can you promise me that <insert their heart’s desire here> will happen?” No matter how it comes—email, instant message, in person standing in front of a signing table—my reaction is always, always the same.
That’s when my chin tips down and my lips quirk up. I can actually feel the quirk because I usually have to bite them to keep them closed. This is awkward when it’s in public, but whatever. Asking a writer to adhere to your imagined storyline is like … asking a cat to stop doing anything, ever. The cat’s gonna look at you and, while he might seem to acquiesce, you know come 3 a.m., he’s still going to be tearing through the house like aliens are trying to probe his asshole. So I look down and smile my small smile and try to be noncommittal, because—and let’s be honest here, you expect no different—there is no way in hell I’m doing anything except letting the characters lead the way.
“Why is that?” <– you asked this, I’m sure, but whatever, we’ll pretend you’re following my script. I’m so glad you asked.
Because they demand nothing less. I can struggle and fight, try to pull them back to where I think we need to be, and if it’s important to the saga (I’ve fallen in love with that word when it comes to the RWMC), then the characters will not stop until they have their way. Either they will continually drag me to the brink of insanity as they ignore everything I am trying to do…or—and this is arguably the most frightening—they go silent. Like a three-year-old, if you don’t play the game as they decree, they’ll take their toys and go home. If you dare ask them what they want, you need to be prepared for what you get in response, because they will be blunt, take over your mind, and run the game their own damn way. They will take you and abuse you, rolling your emotions into a ball they chuck over their shoulder, because you can come play in their world, but you need to leave your damn touchy-feelie self at the door, because in here, it is their rules, their game, nonstop.
I love that. That’s where the fun stuff happens, where I look up from writing and realize my hands and arms ache and my belly is growling and I gotta pee because it’s been 10 hours and I feel like I’m taking my first breath in forever. When things I don’t know I need to happen have happened, and I won’t find out until the next book why that was. When the characters create complex storylines and arcs and introduce ideas and themes that I never considered. When I realize that the world in which they live is so much larger, vaster, and richer than any outline I could ever dream up in my sterile world of reality. When they take me and immerse me into their universe of imagination.
I. Love. That.
So, when a reader asks if they’re going to get their fantasy scene/character/ending, the answer will always be no. Why should you get what you want, when I don’t? But, like the child told to save room for something sweet without being told what it is, if we do that—save room for the unknown—the rewards will be breathtaking.
So. I solemnly swear to always, always let the characters lead the way.