Book Discussions: The Evolution of a Story

I was thinking about one of my stories and how much it had changed from the original idea, to the draft I’m working on presently, and it is a drastic amount of change. My friend likes to jokingly say that the names are the same and everything else is different, and he’s not far from wrong. The story I’m talking about is Royko Ameshi, a story I’ve been working on writing on and off ever since I was in high school, and it seems like every time I pick it up to work on it again, I go all the way back to the beginning and start rewriting it from there. I mean, my story started out as a tale about a wandering swordsman, definitely influenced by Rorouni Kension, an old anime about a samurai warrior trying to repent for all the lives he’s taken. I didn’t get too far into the story before a typo changed the story completely forever.

The story starts out with a fight between the main character and a bunch of bandits that were in the process of robbing a young man who was about to become a major character and traveling companion for the swordsman. But while I was writing that first scene, I accidentally typed that he flew across the distance between him and the robbers instead of ran. I liked the idea of a swordsman that could fly, and thus the next version of my story had swordsmen with super powers, some that they could all use, and one that unique to each of them. It became more of Dragon Ball Z if all the characters were like Trunks, and the main characters were off to destroy the ring in Mordor.

In my next rewrite I ended up changing the main characters powers from the ability to multiply himself infinitely, in other words make clones of himself, to having control over all the elements, and his friend changed from being able to shoot a beam of energy from his sword to being able to see, talk, and interact with ghosts. Instead of my character having a vague goal of traveling the world seeking justice for his dead father, he starts out the story as a prisoner, about to be executed by the man he had called father his entire life, the King, for committing a silly crime.

We finally get to my current edition of the story where the main character still starts out on the back of a prison cart, but instead of being raised by the King, he was raised by a pheasant couple with no idea that they weren’t his actual parents, and being executed for disobeying orders. Never mind that his disobedience helped them to win a battle with far fewer casualties than they would have otherwise.

That was just a small part of what has changed about my story as I continue to do rewrites, and I think that each version gets better and better. The story seems more compelling to me than the original did, and I think the characters are better and have better motivation for what they are doing now. So the big question comes up, is it okay to just continually change your stories, and when do you reach the point when you just have to finish it and move on. I think that all authors will tell you that no story is ever complete, that you will always find something that you want to change about it. I’m certain that I’m not the only one that has gone back and made such drastic changes to their stories, and it’s almost a certainty that your editor or publisher will make you go back and make huge changes to the story any way. But what about when to call it quits and just let go of the story?

I think that when you feel happy with the story, and it feels complete to you, its time to let it go and let it be finished. There can always be room for your new ideas in the sequel, right? These have been my thoughts on the evolution of stories as writers write them, if you have a different opinion, please leave it down below. I have only recently published my first book, so I’m still very new to this thing, and perhaps I am wrong and lacking experience. I would love to be corrected and taught so that I can improve as an author.

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