Yes, you read right. Characters rebel and plotlines go off in directions previously not considered. It happens. More frequently than you can imagine. But, what to do when faced with this kind of mutiny?

In almost everything I have written there has been an element of the unknown. Generally speaking, I know what I want to write about. More often than not, I write down a very vague plot, and then work it out as I go along. Other times, the story is more solid, I am more in control of where it’s going. But, there are times, when I feel like a piece of fruit in a blender, spun around, tossed, chopped up and reduced to a pulp for the sake of my characters. The Perplexing Case of Seraphim Karalis is one such novel.

From the start, I knew – no…let me correct it…I thought I knew – where this story started, how it progressed and where it ended. I now stand humbled, my little writer’s ego deflated, for I realise that, not only am I not really in control as I’d originally thought, but, instead, I am a slave to my demanding and, sometimes, opinionated characters.

What’s strange about finding myself in this position is that, whichever way I think about it…my characters are always right!

They have been guiding me, speaking to me, sometimes even telling me off for now wanting to follow their advice, and I am in awe of their innate wisdom and knowledge of the story I thought I had created!

Maybe it’s because this novel has been sitting in the sidelines for about a decade. Maybe my characters have had time to chat amongst themselves over a cup of coffee, discuss plot glitches and fruitless ideas, coming up instead with a flowing story, complain about my stubbornness and inability to listen to them. For all I know, this could have happened. I am beginning to believe it has, and they have conspired behind my back. I’m so glad they have!

It started with Dr Spiridon, my island doctor. He demanded many hours of medical training, on my part, still does, researching and asking help from a writer friend who is also a doctor. He is a tough tutor, challenging, serious, yet most rewarding when I get it right.

Then, there was Seraphim, my gravedigger. Now, he’s a curious character. Very silent, content to sit in the background and wait, just wait, until I’m ready to listen to him. He’s allowed me to make mistakes in the writing of him, to fumble and make him look almost ridiculous. And just when I’m about ready to pull my hair out, he steps in, with a gentle smile, places his hands on mine to stop me from typing and says: ‘No, look. This is how you’ll do it.’

In reality, I am not very surprised by either of my main characters. I half-expected them to have their own ideas.

However, there are some others that I hadn’t paid any attention to. And they are the ones that have shocked me the most with their requirements. They started off, (in my mind), as small cameo roles, and have blossomed into quite necessary, and main, characters.

But, once I get over the surprise and wonder, both at their audacity as well as their undeniable wisdom, I am left thinking one thing: this business of writing a novel…it is the ultimate lesson in letting go, of following faint whisperings, or even loud voices, of opening yourself up to the unknown, jumping into a deep, bottomless lake, not knowing if you’ll come out alive or be sucked into its darkness. It takes trust

And so I proceed. One day at a time, placing one word after another, feeling exposed, but, all the while, relishing this exciting and simultaneously frightening feeling of letting go and trusting.

Until next time.


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