When a Character Hijacks You

Cross-eyed penguin giving 'a look'
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Hello everyone. I hope you’ve all had a good weekend and great start to your week.

As you’ll know if you’ve read my Friday Week in Review post, which you can find HERE, I have finally finished my short story called IMPACT. It came in at about 6100 words in the end. 

I had intended for it to finish much sooner, but an unexpected–and unplanned for–character popped up from a hole in the ground–literally, lol. His appearance opened up a whole other realm of possibilities, and suddenly, the story went in another direction. It was supposed to end near this scene …

‘Why’d you do it?’

Jake shrugged, unable to answer for a moment. Then he said, ‘It gives me a rush.’

Gill snorted. ‘So, why not climb rocks or jump out of planes or something?’

That one stumped him. ‘I don’t know,’ he said with unusual honesty.

Into the void the long silence left in its wake, Gill said, ‘Oh, well, I don’t suppose it matters now.’


Which killed that conversation.

Eventually, Gill reached for his hand, and he took it, the both of them holding tight to one another. A while later, she snuggled up to him and rested her head against his shoulder. Even though he’d never admit it out loud, Jake welcomed the contact.

Gradually, so slowly that they didn’t notice it at first, the daylight dimmed and the air warmed until, finally, the light at the end of the tunnel snuffed out, and then the electricity failed, plunging them into total darkness. Jake fumbled for his mobile and navigated to the torch app. He saw no point in worrying about draining the battery. In the pale beam, Gill looked ashen.

And then my unexpected visitor turned up quite out of the depths of my imagination (and the depths of London’s underground tunnels). Which took the story in this direction instead of ending where I’d planned …

Just then, a round metal grate moved upward and sideways, tumbling with a clatter and a clang to the pavement by Jake’s side. Gill screeched. Jake jumped. A yellow-hard hat rose from the black depths, head torch shining. It shone right into Jake’s face, blinding him. He covered his eyes with a hand and squinted. The tunnel worker looked at them, bemused. Then the absence of moving traffic and the usual city noise registered. The guy stared at Jake, who said, ‘A huge meteor just struck Earth. You should’ve stayed down there, mate.’ He nodded toward the open manhole.

The man grinned. ‘You’re having a laugh, right?’

In a high-pitched voice, Gill said, ‘He’s telling you the truth. Why else would we be sitting here like a pair of morons?’

Sweat ran down Jake’s brow and dripped from his chin. With his jacket sleeve, he dabbed at his face. Then he looked at the workman, ‘You felt how hot it is?’

The guy’s eyes widened. ‘You’re not winding me up?’

Silent, Jake used his 4G to navigate to a news channel, and then he held out the device to the bloke half in and half out of the hole. How long would the internet and cell service keep working? Jake shook his head and watched the workman. As the guy read, his grin faded. All at once, he wobbled and nearly fell off the rungs. Jake lunged forward and grabbed his arms. The mobile fell to the ground. Panicked, Jake let go of the guy and grabbed for his phone. The screen had cracked, but the device still operated. A yelp reminded him about the workman. ‘Shit.’

The guy had managed to pull himself up and out and now sat with his feet dangling into the access tunnel, glaring at Jake. ‘Thanks, mate.’ Sarcasm laced the words rather than gratitude.

Jake stared. ‘What?’

‘You dropped me for the sake of your bloody phone. Cheers.’

Jake cringed and flushed. ‘Yeah. Sorry. Habit, you know? It cost a fortune.’

By his side, Gill snorted and said, ‘You’re worse than a teenager.’

Again, Jake apologised. ‘You’re right. I am married to this thing.’ Sheepish, he turned it off and slid it into his coat pocket. The light from the helmet gave enough illumination for now.

Then an idea occurred to him. He looked at the workman. ‘Did it feel cooler down there?’

The guy nodded.

Jake said, ‘Do you think it’s worth us going into the tunnels?’

‘Um, yeah, it might be.’ He gave it some more thought. ‘Yeah, yeah. I reckon. But we’ll need food and stuff. The heat pulse will last for hours. And then it will get cold. Freezing, in fact.’

Dumbfounded, Jake stared at the bloke. ‘How’d you know all that?’

The workman shrugged. ‘That stuff fascinates me.’

Jake grinned. ‘Well, it’ll come in handy now.’

I always love it when characters take over the story in this way, which is why I’m a pantser rather than a planner. I have made outlines and plans before, but somehow, my stories always end up taking their own direction. Does this happen to you? Do you prefer to plan or go with the flow or a bit of both? 

That’s it from me for now. Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you on Friday for my next week in review and writing links.

© Harmony Kent 2018

Story Empire (Co-authored)

Harmony’s Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @harmony_kent

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Jan Sikes

Wow! That was a very cool hijacking, Harmony. I loved it.

CS Boyack

It always happens to me, outline or not. I’ve learned to shoehorn those characters into the story, but it’s part of the magic that happens.

Staci Troilo

Love the twist. Those are always nice surprises.

I’m a planner. I work better that way. I leave myself room for veering off plan for a bit, but not far. If a surprise starts to take me way off, I reassess then decide whether to revise the outline to accommodate it or revise the story to dial it back.