Allie. Chapter 16. Letting Characters Decide the Plot.

“Water, please,” Allie whispered, standing with her hands tied behind her back.
Frank stood beside her outside the city gates, watching as Serenity’s caravan approached.
He lifted the water jug to her mouth, letting her take a small swig before pulling it back.
Allie sighed appreciatively, licking her lips. “Thank you.”
Frank nodded, frowning. “I’m glad she didn’t kill you,” he said, strapping the water jug back to his belt.
Allie couldn’t bring herself to meet his eyes, looked out at the distant row of carts instead. She could barely make out Serenity leading the way. “Why didn’t she?”
Frank shrugged, a frown still plastered on his face. “She still might.”
Allie shuddered, unconsciously tugging at the rope that bound her wrists.
“Do you think I deserve to die?” Allie asked, her voice wavering.
Frank kept his eyes on the caravan. “You hurt her. She thinks of you as a daughter and you abandoned her.”
“I’m not her daughter,” Allie said. “What she did was wrong. What’s she’s doing right now is wrong. This isn’t her city, and I’m not her property.”
“She freed you,” Frank replied, meeting her eyes.
“She enslaved me.”
“She gave you a choice, and you chose to join our family,” Frank said simply. “And families stick together.”
“So you think I deserve to die?” Allie asked again, her heart sinking.
Frank’s face hardened as he looked back at the caravan. They’d almost arrived. “No,” he said eventually.
Allie nodded, trying to take solace in the fact that Frank didn’t want her dead.
Relaxing her shoulders, she took a deep breath, attempting to calm herself as Serenity approached. She was close enough that Allie could see Serenity’s emotionless face as she led the caravan to the city. Five people walked with her; two men and three women; each members from the city.
Serenity’s face grew dark as she met Allie’s eyes. She stopped right in front of them, signaling for the caravan to pause outside the gates. As she did so, one of her dragons popped its head out from the ground, briefly sniffing the air before returning underground.
“Any news?” Serenity asked Frank, pointedly ignoring Allie.
“One incident,” Frank replied, glancing down at his notes. “It’s been taken care of.”
Serenity nodded, turning toward the five city members. “We’ll camp here, outside the walls.”
“Why not in the city?” One of the women asked tentatively.
“We won’t be staying long,” Serenity said, waving dismissively. “No sense in putting down roots. We’ll take what we need and leave the five of you to run the city.”
The woman nodded submissively, keeping her head down, but some of the others shared nervous looks.
“Can’t you stay a little longer?” One of the men asked. “What if they don’t listen to us…”
“They will listen to you,” Serenity said confidently. “I’ll punish any who don’t.”
“So you’ll be coming back soon?” Another asked.
Serenity nodded, allowing a smile to spread across her lips. “Yes, soon.”
The city members visibly relaxed at the news, each smiling in relief. “Thank you,” they said, bowing in turn.
Serenity bowed back, smiling. “Of course. I would not leave you without justice.” And with that, she shot a look at Allie, the smile slipping off her face.
Allie met her gaze for the briefest of moments before looking away, her heart thumping against her chest.
“Give the orders,” Serenity said, sending Frank toward the caravan.
“Can I see my pigs?” Allie asked, head still bowed.
Serenity paused, resting a hand on Allie’s chin, slowly raising it so Allie was forced to meet her eyes.
“Olly is watching them,” she said. “Your pigs are fine, but you can’t see them… you’re joining me in the palace.”
Something in Serenity’s eyes made her shiver. Allie nodded, swallowing her objections.
Satisfied, Serenity released Allie’s chin and smiled. “Good. You’re learning.”
Allie kept her eyes down, forcing her anger into submission. “Could you untie me?”
Serenity chuckled. “I may have shown you mercy, but you won’t earn my trust back so easily. You’ll stay bound until we reach the cells.”
Still smiling, Serenity nudged Allie toward the gate, signaling for her to head back through the city.
Serenity led the way, Allie and the five citizens following closely behind.
Allie couldn’t help but feel exposed as they walked through the streets, her hands still tied behind her back. Almost every street they walked down was barren; not a single homeless person in sight.
The few people Allie saw along the streets were walking briskly, seemingly unaware that they were passing their Queen.
The streets thickened out with people as they grew closer to the palace, but it was far less busy than Allie was used to.
“Something’s wrong,” one of the citizens whispered, looking around at the passersby.
“Tell her then,” another hissed, nudging him.
He shook his head. “I’m not…”
Suddenly, yells erupted all around them as a mob of people appeared, each holding what looked like homemade weapons.
Before Serenity could react, the mob attacked, their deafening yells echoing down the empty streets.
Allie immediately crouched, instinctively making herself as small as possible.
Surrounded by the five citizens, she watched as they were bludgeoned with weapons, overwhelmed by the dozens of attackers.
The majority of the mob, however, had surrounded Serenity, who was suddenly holding a knife in each hand. Three motionless bodies were lying at her feet, creating a barrier between her and her attackers.
The sight was enough to give some of the attackers pause, but they still pressed on, attempting to overpower her with numbers. Seemingly unconcerned, she cut them down one by one.
Terrified, Allie threw herself on the ground, joining what had become a pile of bodies in the street.
One of the attackers tripped over her, but didn’t give her any notice as they rushed to help their friends.
Then the ground erupted around her.
For the briefest moment, the roars of Serenity’s dragons mingled with the cries of their prey. And then all was drowned out, replaced by the pain in Allie’s chest.
Shaking, she managed to glance down at the rock sticking out from her stomach just before she passed out.


 

I’ve already written about plotting character development. That’s not what this chapter is about. This chapter is about being true to your characters.

Regardless of how good you think your plot outline is for your story, if you’re not being true to your characters, then you’re not being true to your story.

To give this context, I’m going to address the two main categories of writers in the World today, referred to by Brandon Sanderson as “gardeners” and “architects.”

Gardeners

  • Little to no plan for the book
  • Writes each chapter from scratch and sometimes out of order
  • Lets the characters dictate everything about the story
  • Usually takes forever to finish the story (if they ever do in the first place)
  • Usually struggles with the ending of the story because they didn’t plan it out
  • Very good at writing compelling characters and environments

Architects

  • Completely plans out the book before writing it
  • Usually not as good at writing compelling characters
  • Usually forces characters into roles for the sake of their plot outline
  • Writes very quickly
  • Usually have good arcs and endings, but unmemorable characters
  • Lets the plot dictate everything

Most people will be a mixture of these things, with some heavily leaning on one or the other. Neither method is wrong, but obviously come with their own weaknesses, and that’s okay. You need to write how you need to write. 

Personally, I find it very satisfying to blend the two together. I create a loose plan for the story, ensuring that there will be some sort of satisfying ending to the story, but I let the characters dictate how we get there.

Every chapter is an adventure, not just for the reader, but for myself as I’m writing it, because I allow my characters to act and react according to their nature even if it wasn’t what I originally planned. This way the characters ring true, the story is engaging, I have fun with it, and I can still write relatively quickly. This method will not work for everyone, but it’s an example of how you can write according to what motivates you. The best way to write a story is to write a story. 

Example:

Things I didn’t know before writing this chapter:

  • That Serenity was going to put Allie in prison
  • That they were going to be attacked by townspeople
  • That Allie was going to get hurt

Pretty much the meat of the chapter, right? In reality, all I knew beforehand was that I wanted to establish the fact that Serenity had complete control over Allie’s fate and that Frank isn’t evil. Everything else was decided as I wrote it. For some people, that would stress them out or freeze them up. But for me, it’s what makes writing fun.

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