Let us all keep in mind and remember here that I am not a very disciplined writer. The story whose first draft I finished last Lent hasn't changed much since then, and the one I'm occasionally glancing at these days I hadn't looked at in years before last week. I'm only saying this because I'm about to tell you about one of my characters and I don't want Certain Readers to get their hopes up too much.
But I just wanted to point out that phenomena that I have mentioned and also heard other authors mention on occasion--the one where the characters end up changing the story on you.
I have this character Jake. He's 23 or so and he gets completely infatuated with this young woman named Sophie and follows her to London. They get in kind of a fight on his first full day there, and he decides to go find a pub and think. Or at least drink. He has some conflict-resolution issues. Anyway, so he marches out of the Tate Modern and goes to look for a pub.
I really thought he was going to find one. I mean, they're all over London. I thought, too, that he'd be too jetlagged and maybe intimidated by this new huge city to want to go very far. He was a little nervous about flying to begin with. I figured he'd get on the Tube and head back to the area he was staying and go to a pub there, just to be safe. But he didn't. Instead he got all distracted by the thoughts in his head and kept walking through Bankside and got lost somewhere beyond Tower Bridge and now it's getting dark.
I didn't know that was going to happen.
I don't think this is necessarily going to be a pivotal part of the story, but I just point it out because this kind of thing happens a lot when I write: somebody goes down a road I hadn't planned for them to go on and I have to follow them down it. If I don't, they might never get out. I have an idea of where I want the story to head, and sometimes I have to write a character out of quite a bit of mischief. But I also have to give them the dignity to make their own choices and see how the story unfolds on that basis.
I'm not trying to draw out any deep symbolism here. I've already talked about how I feel about making this experience a metaphor for God's interaction with us (I think it works in part . . . but not well enough). But it does fascinate me when it happens, and I thought I'd let you in on it.