Exercise: Let Go of the Wheel, Bro

by jonnahzkennedy

Recently, I finally started my next novel, and I’m pretty convinced that it’s the next one. I can just feel it, this is it: this character, this narrator, he’s calling for me to write about his life (quite literally actually) so that’s what I’m going to do. Of course, it took a while for me to find the right directions to where he wanted to meet up. i knew that he lived in California, but I hadn’t been to California in a while, in fact, the last time I went to California was a great long while ago, and even then, I didn’t stay for a very long visit because my calling was in New York, and the story demanded that I finish whatever the business was in New York. In short, I’ve never been very fond of California, I’ve always looked east and south, but never west, I don’t know hy,k but suddenly, it feels right. So I finally found out where I was going, and even though the conversation got off a little rough, we shared some burgers and fries and cokes, and the afternoon went well; he even called up some of his other friends. Yeah, this is one cool dude, I think.

There is something rewarding about walking through the woods, i.e. your imagination, and picking up and investigating all these leaves, learning about all these different trees, and trying to find the way the wind goes when it’s being bent in every direction on either side of you. But there’s something like serendipity when you come up on another traveler: these travelers, from antique and far away lands are characters, the people who will be telling their story to you so that you can write it down, or at least take a break from all this walking. It is when you realize that’s all writing is, finding a character in the woods and listening to them for a little while to give your legs a break and get warm by the fire, that it becomes so much more enjoyable because now you’re not just writing, you’re telling, you’re understanding, you’re imagining.

When you write, you cannot drive the story, otherwise you come up with something that you don’t really like because you took too much control of the story. Think about this: your story, your book, is a television program, alright? Better yet, it’s a reality television program. Now imagine that you’re one of the producers for the show, yeah? As the producer of the show, you’re just there to liven up the dull moments and move the “story” along, the story being the set up for this show: 7 people, one city, one house, let’s see what happens. It’s like rolling dice. You can only do so much to make sure that you get the outcome that you want, but in the end, it’s not about you: it’s about the dice. It’s about the characters. Therefore, all you people driving your books, your stories, you need to be a little bit more like Tyler Durden and let go of the wheel, or at least ease up on it. The best stories are the stories that the characters tell themselves, they drive the story, you are a passenger who might control the gear shift, or might have an extra gas and brake pedal to keep just a limited swing of control, but you do not have the wheel: they’re taking you where they want to go. Once you learn to let go, sacrifice your control, then you’ll start writing stories that people really want to read, then you’ll start writing stories that people will remember.

Homework; let go of thew wheel. Just let go, and let the characters take the story wherever they want. Pair this with Method Writing even to help you push this out a little bit harder. Even when you feel like nothing is happening, the story is not going anywhere, you have to trust, like letting yourself fall backwards into someone’s arms, that the characters will get you there safely, that they have everything under control. If you never learn to trust your characters, then you will never be able to write very good ones, because it takes a whole of trust to become friends with someone, to let them drive your car: and pray to God that they don’t wreck it, that you don’t die. It takes trust, and as an author, that’s what you need to learn, just like you would with people, because characters are people, so it’s just a matter of figuring if you trust them. If you don’t, then you need to reanalyze the relationship.

Happy Writing, guys!