Full Definition of AMOK
: in a murderously frenzied state
a : in a violently raging manner
b : in an undisciplined, uncontrolled, or faulty manner <films … about computers run amok — People>
I start with this word I am sure we have all heard at some point just to be clear that I am going to refer to definition 2B. I am not talking about murderous rampages here. Now more to my story. Growing up, at least where I did, we were taught to “plan the work and work the plan”. Now, that exact terminology has been used for everything from engineering and architecture to mathematics. For me, it was also referred to when it came to writing.
Plan your work – Plot outline, characters, locations, sub plots, scene changes, etc.
Work your plan – Put flesh to the outline you created. Give your characters depth and substance. Make them believable and get your readers to invest in them.
This is all fine and dandy when the characters behave. What about when they take on a life of their own and wreck your carefully crafted scenes and dialog? I feel, as a first time fiction author, that when this happens you have to throw caution to the wind and go with it. My thoughts are that the characters write the story. Without them, what are we doing? Perhaps in non-fiction you have the option of railroading your subjects to do as you want because you are stating facts, not weaving a tale. With fiction, if your characters behave irrationally (and this is not the intent of the story) then you have incoherent jumbles.
I have read stories where I just cannot seem to follow the logic of the characters. If you build a character to have a strong sense of family and obligation, I think it would take a pretty significant shift of conscience to make that character abandon a loved one at the drop of a hat. Sure, there are two faced people, but if you don’t lay that groundwork, you leave your readers shaking their head in confusion.
I led with this rambling because I was looking over notes for my first book. I always intended it to be a trilogy. I had a set plan of attack on what I was going to throw at my character and watch him struggle and survive through it in three stages. As I started writing, the main character, and a few of the major supporting characters, took me down side passages I didn’t even know were in my head. They opened doors and brushed away cobwebs that concealed interesting dialogs and development of their personalities.
As I continued, my 3 book plan would now be a 4 book plan to still accomplish all the surprises I have in store for my protagonist. I hope in my revisions I have trimmed away the ‘fluff’ and left the good parts from these alleyways of thought. I guess my readers will tell me, if the characters don’t get to me first.
So, to give a final thought I leave you with his gentle readers. “A character is a real person to their writer and sometimes they take us in directions we never knew existed.”