Friday, April 22, 2011

"S" is for Subconscious

When I write, I usually have an outline of some sort.  Sometimes it's detailed; sometimes it's vague and just gives me a rough idea of what will happen.

So, when I get down to actually writing a piece, I have a good path to get from point A to point B.  But, often my subconscious takes over, and I've learned to let it do its thing.

Let me explain.

I'll be writing a scene, and then I'll be having a character or characters interact in a certain way or say something that won't make sense.  Maybe the action or information will seem unnecessary (to me), but then, later on, it will make perfect sense.

Like, "Of course having Bob leave his car behind now in Chapter 2 was a good idea.  Because in eight chapters, Bob's car will be wired with a bomb because of those mafia guys chasing him, so if he took his car in Ch.2, they couldn't wire it with the bomb, and then Carlos wouldn't be "eliminated" when he tries to steal Bob's car and gets blown up in a fiery inferno!  I'm a freakin' genius!"

Okay, so that's not exactly true.  But, when something like this happens, I'll usually just have the character run with something and see how it plays out.  If it turns out the scene is unnecessary or just doesn't fit or needs to be changed, I can take care of that later on in the editing process, or Shelley will point it out.  No biggie.  The weird thing is, is that for me, these scenes often fit right in with what I'm doing with the story.  Like I said before, most of the time I have the major details worked out, but the little things and tweaks a story gets aren't anywhere on my radar when I start to write.  In the above car-bombing example, it might have seemed strange to me to have Bob leave his car behind.  Maybe I know that the character likes driving, or thinks cabs are creepy.  Who knows.  But Bob wants to leave his damn car behind and have someone else take him where he needs to go, so that's what I'll work with.  Little do I know until later on that it was the best freakin' idea ever.

I've learned to trust my subconscious.  If my characters are telling me that they're doing something, by golly, I'll do my best to have them do it.  Even if it doesn't make sense at the time, chances are good it might later on.  I've had the unfortunate experience where I've told myself that an idea or scene is stupid when I come up with it, and then I don't write it out.  Well, then another scene comes up later and I'm stuck with how to link it with the rest of the story, but if I'd just written the first scene to begin with, it wouldn't be a problem at all.

How about you?  Does this happen to any of you lovely writers?  Or am I just crazy?

xoxo Sarah


  1. Yes, this has happened to me. A while back, I was writing a scene and I knew down to the last period what I wanted that scene to be. All I had to do was type it up. Then all of a sudden, a line of dialogue changed. Just a little change, no big deal, but it led to another change and another until I had this avalanche on my hands. By the time I got to the end of the scene and typed that last period, I honestly sat back and said, "Wow. I didn't see that coming!"

    It changed everything in the very best possible way. I love it when that happens.

  2. I love when that happens, myself. It's weird how, as writers, we're able to surprise ourselves and get these story twists in something we're "supposed" to have control over.

  3. Hi Sarah: that's when I find the character/story comes alive. It goes where it needs to go, esp in the first draft. Right now, on my Tale Spinning blog ( I'm using the A to Z Blog challenge to dictate an ongoing story I'm writing. When I first started doing the ongoing, I have NO idea where I was heading. I used an earlier short piece as the beginning (that's why it doesn't fit the a to z scheme) and prompt, and I try not to overthink it until I get the title for the day. Backwards maybe, but (1) I'm having fun and (2) it's getting good responses. I'm an improv performer, so this works well for me: being in the moment.

  4. Very cool! I like that's unique. I love it when the character comes alive for us. It makes our job as the writer easier.