Changing Understanding of the Story


Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

Before I wrote A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I did extensive research into pandemics and into the government’s response to such emergencies (I based my fictional response on actual executive orders that Clinton signed), so there wasn’t much change in my understanding of these matters during the course of the book, but there was a big difference in my thoughts about what “they” want us to know and what they don’t.

When I learned about Pingfan, the Japanese biological warfare installation where they did horrendous experiments on POW’s and nearby villagers, I thought I’d stumbled onto something really explosive. Yet, as happened to a character in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, the very next novel I picked up used Pingfan as a setting. It got me to thinking about the nature of cover-ups, and many of the discussions in the last half of the book were actual discussions I had with a friend while I was writing the book.


Here are some responses from other authors about how their understanding of the story changes during the course of the book. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Sherrie Hansen, Author of “Love Notes”
I start the story, my characters finish it. Themes come to me as the book goes on, and often, when it’s totally finished. Sometimes I have to rewrite the beginning of the book, because by the time I’m done, I know the characters so well that I think they would never say or do the things they did at the beginning of the book.

From an interview with Cynthia Vespia, Author of “Sins And Virtues”
Sometimes. That makes it fun though. You expect it to go one way and instead it veers off course and takes you to an entirely new level. For me, when that happens, it feels like I’m reading it myself.

From an interview with Alan Place, Author of “Pat Canella: The Dockland Murders”
My understanding is constantly changing as the character evolve their own lives, I never try to force them to do things that I feel don’t fit.

What about you? Does your understanding of the story you are writing change during the course of the book?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire)

  1. Avatar of Paula Boer
    Paula Boer says

    Absolutely. Characters have a life of their own and sometime investigate things that I would never have thought to when drafting the outline. Sometimes I have to rein them in and get them back on plot, but more often than not they are right in their pursuit of a deeper story. I think it is this magic that makes writing such fun.

  2. Avatar of Craig Murray
    Craig Murray says

    My characters surprise me sometimes with their complexity or humour that I did not see when first writing them.

  3. Avatar of Kristin Fouquet
    Kristin Fouquet says

    I always consider it a good thing when a story changes as you are writing it. Sometimes it’s an evolution, other times maybe a redirection, but I think it is an act of discovery.

  4. Avatar of Gabriel Constans
    Gabriel Constans says

    Very insightful and helpful Pat. Thank you.

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