When Writing Takes You Where You Would Rather Not Go

remaining leavesRemaining Leaves of Fall

The leaves of fall are almost entirely gone as autumn prepares the way for winter, a place I would rather not go, at least not yet!

The character Joy, in my newly released novel Dancing on a High Wire, fights breast cancer. She is based on a number of people I know who have had breast cancer, but especially on the daughter of a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her fourth child. When I originally wrote this book, I ended ten years in the future with Joy still cancer free.

When the thought came to write a sequel, at first I thought I would pick up at this point and have Joy experience a recurrence after ten years of remission. But then I realized that would put the story line years into the future. Who knew what world events would have occurred between then and now. Since my writing is not futuristic but rooted in present day reality, I realized I would either have to move the story line back ten years, or change the ending. I chose to change the ending but in doing so, that left me with a heroine in her thirties battling a recurrence of cancer after the birth of her baby, a place I had not wanted to go.

With the ten year time frame she would have had all those years to enjoy her children and watch the oldest grow to be a precocious teenager. With the new time frame, who knew how much time she would have with her children?

After this decision had been made, I ran into my friend and found out his daughter’s cancer had returned. I had the weird sense of somehow having predicted this even though I knew that was not the case. And now, as I prepare to write this next chapter in my character’s life, I find myself thinking the two are somehow intertwined. If my character doesn’t make it, does it mean his daughter won’t? If my character experiences a miracle, will she as well? Crazy, I know, but you have to be a little crazy to be a writer.

I have a general idea in my head where I see this novel going, but I don’t hold that too tightly. Writing has a way of taking on a life of its own. I never know exactly where a story will take me, which is one of the things I love about writing. When I started Dancing on a High Wire, I had not thought of the character Kathleen, but then, in the midst of the murky middle of the story, I realized I needed something new to keep the plot moving forward, so Kathleen came to life, becoming as strong a character as the three I had started with.

I don’t know where this book will take me but I hope it will be a positive journey for my characters and for my friend’s daughter. Either way it will be a journey we take together.

Has your writing ever taken you in a direction you had not planned on going? When? How did you deal with it?

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