Monday Musings: Happy Accidents
The term “happy accidents” was something I first heard when watching the Bob Ross instructional painting show on PBS. Ross was a really soft-voiced dude with a white guy Afro who would make a painting–usually a landscape or still life–over the 20-some minutes or so of the show. If he screwed something up he’d call it a “happy accident” because most of the time it didn’t really ruin the picture. Sometimes it made it better.
I have happy accidents in writing all the time. The best ones are those moments of accidental genius that you didn’t plan for but make the story much better. When that happens, you think, “Holy crap, this is great! Why didn’t I think of it sooner?”
With this story, I described how the first draft had lost my interest, but then through a happy accident I decided to do a second draft set in the ’30s with Nazis as bad guys and that got the juices flowing again.
It was in Chapter 4 that I had a major happy accident that took the story in new directions. My witch character Sylvia goes to a local college where her sister felt a disturbance in the Force, er magic. She’s never been there–or to any school because she’s 400 years old and back in her day they didn’t have public schools in France–so she asks someone for directions to the admin building so she can find some information.
Here’s the happy accident: on a whim I decided that person should be Cecelia, who’s an undercover agent working for the Nazis but also [SPOILER!] Sylvia’s long-lost, thought-to-be-dead daughter. In my original vague outline I called for them to be kind of adversarial, but then as the second part of the happy accident I thought, “What if they were friends?”
So that’s how I wrote it and I think it works much, much better. Because now we’ve set up a relationship for later when they have to be enemies. Plus it establishes a bond between them when it becomes clear how they’re related.
It adds a whole new dimension to their relationship and to the story. That was something I hadn’t planned on, but once I recognized it, I thought, “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” Those are the kind of things you have to listen for when you’re writing. Follow those voices and maybe the story will be better off for it.
Wednesday I have a riddle for you…bwahahahahahahaha!