Mystery and fantasy writing

Whose Story Is It?

When I began writing the books that would become the Grace Street mysteries, I tried many different points of view. I finally settled on Ellin Belton, Camden’s girlfriend, to get her opinion on everything that was happening at 302 Grace Street, because Ellin has very strong opinions, and I thought it would be good to see the other characters through her eyes.
However, I was chugging along—and chug is the word—when David Randall, a minor character, appeared in the doorway of the house. At that time, Randall was not the handsome dashing fellow he is today. He was paunchy and unshaven, wearing boxers and a tee shirt, a cigarette drooping from his mouth.
He said, “It’s my story. Let me tell it.”
I was surprised. I’d planned for him to be one of the tenants in Cam’s boarding house, a washed up salesman with no future. “Well,” I said. “Go ahead.”
The minute Randall started talking, I knew his was the voice the story needed. This was the point of view character. The story flowed in a way it never had with Ellin. No more chugging. He came with a tragic back story, a sarcastic sense of humor, and a passion for finding what others had lost.
“One more thing,” he said. “If this is my story, I’m going to be a hell of a lot better looking.”
I often find if a book isn’t working, it’s because the wrong person is trying to tell the story. Figuring out whose story it is can be a long process. There are several books still in the drawer, waiting for the right voice. Sometimes I let each character have a turn, hoping the work will take off and run. I live for those moments when a character decides his or her own fate.
The Grace Street mysteries continue to be Randall’s story as he strives to win Kary’s heart and work through the grief of losing his young daughter. He’s come a long way from the sleazebag I envisioned.
And Ellin has never forgiven him for taking over.

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Comments on: "Whose Story Is It?" (1)

  1. I totally understand this. It somehow takes a big leap of faith for me to relinquish control of my story to an unexpected character, though. Hopefully I can talk myself into giving this a real try in my current work 🙂

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