Do you remember Sunday drives? Way back in the days of big cars and low gas prices, my parents used to pack the family into our Chevy Biscayne and off we’d go exploring. Now I’m sure my father had a route in mind, but to me it always seemed like a spontaneous journey with adventure waiting around every turn. If we were coming up on a road and I asked, “Dad, where’s that lead?” he’d say “I don’t know, let’s find out,” and off we’d go on what seemed like a shiny quest—where does the road end?
My characters tend to be like that when I’m writing. I often don’t know how they’re going to respond if I put them in a given situation. I’m a panster when it comes to plotting so I never have a clear vision of where the road ends. Sure, I’ve got a vague idea (otherwise I wouldn’t have started the story in the first place) and I know some of the twists and turns along the way, but the path is never clearly defined. Like the roads on those long-ago Sunday drives, it’s an adventure, dictated by my characters. They control the steering wheel. Sometimes I’ll dangle a plot twist and ask “where does that lead?” My characters, like my father, will answer “I don’t know, let’s find out,” and I’m racing ahead on that same shiny quest of adventure.
I treasure the memory of Sunday drives. A little of that whimsy makes its way into everything I write. After all, what is a story without wondering where the road ends?