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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Transformations


I love columbines. Since I’m not a very good or industrious gardener, I like plants that take care of and propagate themselves, and columbines certainly do that. They also transform themselves, and every year I love to see what new combinations they’ve produced.

I started out with only the purple & purple and white & pink varieties. One had upturned flowers; the other had the more regular downturned blooms. All these other combinations produced themselves – white & white, white & purple, lavender & purple, light pink & dark pink, and this lovely burgundy. They’ve also spread themselves all over the yard, front and back, and I expect my neighbors are finding them too. (You’re welcome, folks.)

Stories transform themselves, too, even as you’re writing them. Just because you’re the author doesn’t mean you’re in charge. The story I thought was about psychic researchers turned out to be the story of a girl desperately camouflaging herself among ordinary people, trying to smother everything about herself that was extraordinary. The story I thought was going to be about a fantastic scientific discovery turns out to be about a young man trying to redeem himself for a crime he committed when he was too naïve to know any better. The heroine who was supposed to choose one boy eventually chose the other, because he turned out to be better suited for her.

In every case, I thought the story was about the situation, but instead it was really about the people. And I didn’t know squat about the people until I met them while writing the story. As for the brand-spanking-new WIP about the end of the world? Well, I have no idea what that story will turn out to be, but I’m sure my main character Miri will let me know when she’s ready.

How have your stories transformed before your eyes? How have they surprised you?

8 Responses to Transformations

  1. Sarah says:

    Now I want columbines for my yard! I outline and plot, but I think it’s crucial to be open to letting the story head in a different direction sometimes. I’m still surprised at how many things I just can’t figure out in advance–they don’t become clear until I’m in the thick of the story. Really nice analogy!

  2. I hear ya. The book I’m writing is supposed to be a comedy but is starting to hit on some pretty serious themes- like taking advantage of others just because you can. Can’t wait to see what happens next though!

  3. Haha, I love this, D. I was so surprised to learn that my book is more like a living, breathing monster, taking my character and ideas and turning them into something I never would have expected I’d end up with. Always fun to see what happens with my scenes and characters – but I’m a control freak, so the surprise discoveries can be stressful at times!

    Love those columbines!

  4. Linda G. says:

    Love your columbines. 🙂

    My books always surprise me. I’m a pantser — my characters show up first, and lead me on a merry chase through what I hope turns into a plot.

  5. mshatch says:

    what heroine chose the other boy? Have I read that? And yes, I love how stories sometimes take unexpected turns.

    lovely columbines!

  6. Your columbines are gorgeous, and sound like just the plant for me. It’s too darned hot to do much gardening here in the summertime, so a garden that looks after itself is just the ticket.

    Great analogy, too. My MC started out being similar to me, but she morphed and made decisions contrary to what I expected.

  7. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss dianne! yep! lots of my writing stuff gets way different along the way. for me its like when me and one of my brothers did a bee line hike and had to go straight til we had to do a turn and decide which way to go and then we always ended up at a strange place and even got lost a couple times. but we always got home.
    …hugs from lenny

  8. Orlando says:

    Yes I was thinking about the columbines too. My novel took a lot of changes, although not as drastic as yours has. Well actually, now that I think about it. I do believe my protagonist has changed since the other got himself killed. However, since both the dead brother and the live brother are fighting for the same goal. I’m still not sure who the protagonist is.