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Recalculating

By Ane Mulligan

I love GPS. When I grew up in Southern California, everything was laid out in a grid; streets ran north and south or east and west. There would be an odd diagonal street, too. If you missed your turn, you simply went around the block and came at it again.

Not so when I moved to Georgia; all the street here were derived from cow paths or river crossings. Did you know there are a 71 Peachtree Streets in Atlanta? And none of them are related. And a road will change names without any warning, especially if the name is the brother-in-law to the mayor.

I had a terrible time until GPS came along. Then when it did, there were still a lot of bad directions given. Looking for a medical building, I ended up at the origin of a cow path … smack in the middle of the meadow.

Our stories can take a sudden turn from the original plan, causing some recalculation to be necessary. I know. It happened to me last week. I was critiquing a chapter from my crit partner Michelle Griep, when it hit me how much she throws at her heroine. She’s downright mean! But it also made me take a hard look at my own WIP.

I’m a Planster and I had a plan. I mapped it out, had the plot ideas all laid out in a neat map of this novel’s journey. I had a lot coming at my heroine, and tension hanging over her head in every chapter. But I hadn’t done the worst thing that could happen to her. I consulted my list, looked at my plan, and saw what I threatened needed to happen.

So, I did it. I threw the worst thing at her … and it threw my entire plotline out the window.

My inner editor (GPS) screeched at me, “Recalculating!” And my story came to a stuttering halt as my novel GPS tried to recalculate. It’s a whole new direction. Don’t get me wrong; I like it. It’s good. And it’s making me sustain an emotional level while her life has to move forward.

I guess with each recalculation made, we grow. At least, I like to think so. Have you had to recalculate a story recently? What happened and how did you manage it? And did that evil woman in your GPS (inner editor) screech at you?

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a multi-published novelist, and playwright, who believes chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups. Visit her on her website at www.anemulligan.com.

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4 Responses to Recalculating

  1. How well I know that feeling…that I haven’t made things nearly bad enough for my heroine! Love the recalculating analogy.

    And a year or so ago, my GPS took me to a mental retardation facility instead of the library. Then it took me to a soybean field. I finally stopped and asked for directions.

  2. Melissa says:

    I know what you are talking about. Writing my first novel is such a fun experience, especially when the characters go in a completely different direction than I had planned. 🙂

  3. Joey Rudder says:

    I remember hearing, “Put your protagonist up a tree without any idea how you will get him/her down.” So that’s where I started my book…my dearly loved (to me) protagonist was up a tree (not literally!) and I prayed God would show me how to bring her down. It was a lot of fun to watch His rescue!

    And Ane, I agree completely that “chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups.” It’s great to know someone else sees it that way! 🙂

    Blessings to you!

  4. Mary Van Everbroeck (M.Broeck) says:

    A delightful read Ane! Transitions are especially challenging for those of us who desire to Plan for as much as possible. I’m so glad that you are rolling with the change in lane phenomenon. Your piece is an inspiration to us all. Thanks for sharing your experience. Take care. Mary