Throughout the process of writing my novel, I stopped in my tracks and tried walking in another direction. At other times, I slipped off my main character’s shoes and walked a mile or two in the shoes of other characters, which helped me think outside of the first person perspective. To achieve all of this, I opened up a new ‘experimental’ document.
This technique worked on two levels. First, when something felt a little ‘off’ in the direction a character decided to take in my original document, I could still move forward knowing in the back of my mind that I could experiment later. Sometimes the ‘off’ feeling was smoothed over once I wrote a little more and realized why my character needed to do/say what he or she did. Having that ‘experimental document’ just sitting on my desktop, waiting to be opened, allowed me to move forward with a possibly iffy decision.
But then if that off feeling only worsened, that’s when I’d turn to the experimental document. Writing in the openness of the new document, allowed my character the freedom to feel out or test other trails, stumble upon new things she hadn’t known about herself.
Having the safety net of the original just sitting there for me to go back to allowed for risk-taking. I challenged myself to explore other turns or possibilities in the plot or in the choices of a character. Most of the time, my ‘experimental’ scenes and chapters ended up being inserted into the original document, and older scenes deleted.
If I didn’t use the experimental document, I still gained new insights about a minor character, for example, who had become more fleshed out in my mind, having walked in her shoes.
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if your character had made a different choice than the one s/he did? Or if your novel is in first person, do you ever experiment with the perspectives of other characters in separate documents?