I have read recently many articles from well-established and aspiring authors both, stating that when they write a story, especially a lengthy one, they have to know the end beforehand so that they can adjust their entire writing process to it. What scenes are they going to write? In what order? What subtle hints they will use to point to the big finale? This fact made me, also an aspiring author, feel quite lonely and prompted me to write this article today to address people like me whose procedure is entirely different.
When I open a blank document to write a story, all I have in mind for sure are:
1: A vague subject and
2: The main characters
I usually start with a scene that has one of the protagonists facing an obstacle. That same scene could also serve as a means to introduce some of his or hers basic traits. A classic suspense/draw the reader’s interest type of thing. Nothing new here. But after that, the game is on.
What guides me through the whole story is the characters themselves. They don’t know what they are going to face so, most of the time, neither do I until I reach the next chapter. For instance, I once wrote a character intending for him to be sour and irritable but every single interaction with his fellow protagonist painted him in a sweet, wounded-but-willing-to-listen sort of light. I couldn’t, for the life of me, write a single piece of dialogue that would make him a bitter old man. That wasn’t the story he wanted to tell. As a result, my worldview changed and instead of providing him with the happy ending I had in store, I realized that it would make the story too mushy and unrealistic so I had him meet a tragic end.
All in all, what I’m trying to say is that there is not a certain road to follow when writing a story. It’s art and as such you have to keep your horizons open, experiment and who knows? Your characters may surprise you after all.