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The unexpected

I’m often questioned as to how I can be surprised by something that happens in the book that I am writing when I am the one doing the writing.

“Don’t you know what’s going to happen next?” Oftentimes the answer is no, and this is one of my favorite parts about writing. Here’s a great example:

In my current manuscript, my protagonist, Milo, is attempting to check out of a hotel. There are several stumbling blocks in this process that I won’t get into now, but eventually, Milo must interact with the desk clerk in order to settle his bill and leave. Standard hotel procedure, if you will.

But here’s the surprise. It turns out that the desk clerk, a woman named Lily, has a role in my book. In fact, she’s the central figure in the longest chapter that I’ve written so far. But until Milo began speaking to Lily, I had no idea who this woman was and never expected her to play anything more than a bit role in the story. In fact, I expected Milo and Lily’s conversation to last no more than three to four sentences.

But as Milo began talking, Lily responded, and before I knew it, a new chapter was born.

This is what I mean by being surprised. In my mind, Milo should’ve been in North Carolina by now, attempting to complete his self-assigned mission. But along the way, Lily appeared. And this chapter involving her seemed to almost write itself.

At least two characters in Something Missing were also surprises to me, and both play pivotal roles in the novel.

I know it sounds strange that a writer can be surprised about the words that he writes, but this is why I urge reluctant, lazy writers or writers who have big plans but no pages yet to just sit down and start pecking away at the keys.

You never knew what might happen.