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?