The Art of Letting Go
So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter." — Neil Gaiman
"There's still restraint in your writing." one of my sisters recently told me, "What would happen if you learned to let go?" You mean have my main characters act as I never would?
You see, often times my protagonist is thoughtful, analytical, considerate. So in other words: too much like me. I change her hair color, her eye color, I might drop her height a little. But she still processes dilemmas like I do. More often than not my lead character has a passionate heart that's intentionally bridled. And while I don't think I need to write myself out of every facet of the character(s), I see the value in coloring outside my own lines.
But still, my "letting go" might not fit the definition of other writers. I hear "letting go" in writing, and my mind turns to thrillers like "Girl on a Train" or one of the cliffhangers of a "Game of Thrones" episode (I'm only at the beginning of season 2 since it's a little jarring at times). While shock can work as a literary device and certainly moves the plot forward, I'm interested in using other means to draw the reader in.
I hope my readers connect with the human joys and frailties my characters experience. Even more, I want them to recognize the overarching themes that often speak to forgiveness, perseverance, and justice, even though each reader will have a different take. If I'm bent on letting go in a way that would simply shock or stun, I'd miss my mark.
I don't want to make my main characters act completely outside their personalities unless it's believable. The reason being? I don't always think it makes for empathetic, convincing writing. If I want my characters to come to life, their words and actions need to be somewhat plausible. Does that mean the story line needs to be slow and steady or predictable? I hope not.
No, right now "letting go" for me is taking a closer look at the actions of Callie Rushton in "The Emblem" and seeing if she has more to say before I lock her in. In these close-to-the-end edits, I'm realizing that if she was angry enough with her father to leave the house, she might have had more heated words to offer him. And instead of saying something snide to her arch nemesis, maybe she would have let her fury get the best of her and throw something. Perhaps instead of waiting for her love interest, Gabe, to make the first move, she'll be the one initiating a kiss. A few tweaks, and she comes to life more. Have her do things that I would never in a million years consider? Unlikely...unless she was one of my villains or if I was in one of those modes where inspiration takes flight and I am now in the backseat to the words that want to be written. How I love the rare minutes when that happens.
When I was growing up, I filled many a journal with abandon. I let go. I didn't think of editing, molding, shaping, editing, refining, editing some more. I thought of getting lost in the story. And that worked until I wanted to place those stories in the hands of readers. What I'm learning is that every step of this process requires a lot before my words see light. And that sometimes I do need to expand/broaden my characters before they're in print. But that letting go is more about being open to change/expansion rather than taking my story off the rails.