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S is for Squirrel!


Whether you’re a plotter…or a pantser…we all try and give our characters enough freedom to explore and flesh out plot threads or emotional tunnels that we as writers fail to see on a conscious level. Doing so involves a certain amount of trust, because false trails or ending up in a corner means hours and hours of re-writes and edits.

When do you decide to loosen the reigns and let your characters reconnoiter, or tighten the grip and keep them focused at the task at hand? Do you ever worry that your characters will get distracted by squirrels?

Myself, I let my characters play as I write, and when I sense they are venturing “off-course”, I pause and revisit my outline for necessary adjustments created by their discoveries. So their probing is always semi-controlled and is never detrimental to the overall plot map. I never allow them to “just run with it”.  Some people might consider that restrictive and mute their creative flow, but as far as I’m concerned that’s just the way I put guard rails on my creative process. 

What about you?  How do you keep your characters from running off with the story?


  1. I'm a plotter, but I listen to my characters if they tell me they want to do something else. But because I have a plot in mind they can't run off with the story too far.

  2. My characters? Heck, I'm worried that I'll be distracted by a squirrel.

    Seriously, I tend to stay with my outline unless a character veers off in a really promising direction.

  3. Hi Don .. squirrels certainly never stop and seem to have an inconsistency about them that defies logic .. Stories definitely need to be tied down, but yet let loose .. cheers Hilary

  4. I have had a few squirrel chases in my writing career. They are a tangle, but sometimes I just can't help it.

  5. 'Squirrel'? I'm thinking this is another post like that 'Pecker' one. Are ya trying to fool me here?

    I often let my characters 'run with it' and they are very often distracted by various 'squirrels'. This creates tons of 'slash and burn' for me to clean up in edits. I'm trying to be better, but then the real problem is that I AM ever MORE OFTEN distracted by those 'squirrels' and I've just got to know what they're up to.




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