Sometimes life takes you into unexpected directions. And just as often, so does writing.
I originally started writing my war novel with the idea that the protagonist’s primary relationship would be with the stricken women with which he’s tasked to care for. (He’s a doctor in a war zone that eventually becomes occupied territory.) But after about a hundred pages in — god, what took so long? — I realized that the relationship that intrigued me the most was the one that was developing and expanding between him and the enemy. Specifically, the man from the enemy camp who is charged with taking care of him.
I’m in Day 11 of National Novel Writing Month, and rather than starting over with a new novel in keeping with NaNoWriMo tradition, I’ve opted to continue the same novel with an eye towards finally completing the first draft by the time I crawl across the finish line on November 30th. I’ve taken more detours in the draft as it’s grown and expanded over the last few years, and sometimes the detours have led me to other, new characters with whom my protagonist has struck up new friendships, but I’ve always found myself drawn back to that same thread that ties the protagonist and his primary opponent and captor to each other. The vision I originally had for the story hasn’t just evolved but has taken off into an entirely different trajectory. The biggest struggle I have now is to ensure that the women doesn’t become just a sideshow because that was the entire reason I was compelled to write the story in the first place. If anything, that’s the most compelling thing that draws the two men together.
My job now is to make sure the detour doesn’t take me too far off the path I’ve set for myself and get me lost. Being lost in a story can be a good thing, but losing the story itself would be a tragedy.