This is kind of a short (and slightly random) follow-on article to my short comic about whether you should plan your stories or not. One of the things which always amazes me when I’m writing a story or comic is that if often wants to go off in all sorts of different directions when I start writing it. Personally, I don’t usually do too much in the way of planning before I start writing, so this might be different for people who do, but it probably still happens to some extent or another.
One interesting way to look at it is that every story is actually a collection of different parallel stories and that your role is mainly to decide which one of them ends up being written.
For example, the comic I’m working on at the moment is the third short story in my “Stories” comic which is titled ‘In The Static’. It’s a cyberpunk detective/ horror story about static – however, it’s already changed quite a bit from my original plans within just the first five pages of it. In other words, there are several parallel versions of this story in my imagination and at the moment I seem to be going more towards the “sci-fi detective story” storyline rather than my original idea of “sci-fi horror story”.
Likewise, one of my original ideas for “In The Static” was not to show the protagonist of the story and merely show lots of different scenes narrated through voiceovers. The ending would have revealed that the narrator was none other than the grim reaper and that the static was a window into the afterlife. Whilst I thought that this idea was incredibly cool and very dramatic, it seemed kind of obvious and I’d have had to do a lot of foreshadowing in order for it to make sense. Plus, there was the fact that I’d ended the first story (“Libraria” ) in this collection with a vaguely similar ending – so it’d seem a bit repetitive.
So, that particular version of “In The Static” never got written/drawn – but it still existed in my imagination. I’m still not entirely sure how the current version of it will end, but I have a couple of ideas. However, these may well end up being discarded in favour of another idea I might think of in the future.
I’m sure that you’ve probably had similar experiences whenever you’ve started writing and/or planning a story or comic.
However, this gets really interesting when your story starts to pull itself into a particular direction which is totally different to the one you originally intended to follow. Usually this is a good sign, since it often means that the new direction is one which makes much more sense in the context of your story – however, if it’s very different or very likely to lead to plot holes, then it can be worth sticking to your original plan.
But deciding when and if to do this is one of the most difficult parts of being a storyteller. In a way, it’s almost like dancing with your story – either one of you can lead and both of you are in motion. Some stories are better dancing partners than others – the trick is to know your story well enough to know when to let it lead and when to let it follow you.
There aren’t really any particular rules about this, but I’d personally advise that you try to let your story tell itself and go in it’s own direction as much as possible. Whilst this is the more risky of the two options, your story can often surprise you in all kinds of pleasant (or, in the case of horror stories, disturbing) ways and this sense of curiosity and anticipation about your own story will make you want to write more of it in order to see what happens next.After all, storytelling should always be fun to do and, well, if you’re curious about what will happen next – then your readers probably will be too.