by LaTonya
(Charleston, SC, USA )

Question: I have a bit of writer's block, I suppose. I plotted and mapped out a great story. I wrote furiously, at least a chapter a day, for approximately three months. I lived and breathed my characters. I dreamt about them and had the get up to put in down while the details were fresh. I experienced the deaths of four people very close to me back to back over the following nine months and I stopped writing. Here it is six years later and my characters are crying out to me again to finish telling their story. I want to, but now having experienced what I have, I have the urge to change my characters story. This however, is not going over well with them. The dreams have began again and they have a story of their own story to tell. I am lost now as how to allow them to tell it. I had written up to the climax before i put it away for all these years. A few people have read it and are waiting for me to finish. I honestly don't know how to do this without picking apart my characters. Any advice??

Answer: Congratulations. You've passed the secret initiation and are now officially a fiction writer.

That's what happens when you reach that most excruciating dilemma where you are caught between your characters' demands to have their story told and your need to tell the story the way you think it should be told.

I could be brutally honest as well as comletely unhelpful here and say that this is a problem every writer must solve on his or her own. For most people, that's what happens. You keep that problem alive in the forefront or background of your mind, day after day, until one fine morning the answer springs out of the depths of your subconscious and you feel exactly what you must do.

In the meantime, you have to be careful to avoid some of the pitfalls many artists hit when coping with the stress of this dilemma (i.e. substance abuse, moodiness, depression, shouting at your loved ones for no justifiable reason, pointless distractions, and self-abuse).

On the other hand, let me try to be more helpful.

Obviously you haven't told me why you want to change the story. There are good reasons for doing so - like a flash of inspiration that solves a problem within the writing, or that makes the story better.

However, rather than tearing down the entire edifice, why not finish the draft you are working on by letting the characters have their way? Trust them.

If, after you've had enough time to reflect on the finished book and perhaps have shown it to some people you trust, you can put your finger on something that isn't working, then you can always make changes in the second draft.

But which would you rather be, the kind of builder who never finishes anything because he keeps changing the design or one who builds a house that is slightly-less than perfect but, hey, it's still a great house and you can always renovate in a few years but at least for now you have a great place to live?

Or to put it another way, create first, judge later.

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