Late last week, I came to a scene in the novel I'm working on where I was to introduce a new character. The character had been floating around in my head for a few weeks. I had a sketch of what she'd be and her purpose. I knew precisely where and when she'd enter the story. Basically, I had pretty much settled on the character about thirty pages before her appearance. Then a funny thing happened...when she showed up, she was much different.
This character literally has an entrance into the story and as I sat in front of my computer, writing her into the page, she didn't look at all like I'd been picturing her in my head. She'd always been this diminutive elderly woman, so imagine my surprise when into my imagination walked a young Red Ridding Hood clad woman, much stronger and determined than I'd dreamt up.
Alas, my character was changing on me and I had a decision to make. Keep with my original idea or adapt to what the story was telling me? This a familiar gamble that shows up hundreds of times in the process of writing a novel and each time it has to be weighed carefully. Sometimes it pays off to be impulsive. However leaping at too many impulsive directions can quickly cause you to lose focus of the original story. Some are hard to figure out the best course of action, but not this one.
The character that strolled onto the page wasn't about to let me make a single alteration.