An interesting truth rang clear to our family this year as we sat around the Christmas Eve table: there's no predicting the future, or where it will take us. 2011's gathering consisted of my husband, myself, our adult daughter, our adult son, his wife, and my elderly father. As I finished up the dishes that year, stuffed the last bit of wrapping paper into the bulging garbage bag, and turned off the Christmas tree lights, I assumed, I'm sure, that Christmas 2012 would look much the same. I had no idea that my father's empty chair would be occupied my our daughter's new, but very significant, other, and that he would come packaged with two lovely children. Or that at the corner of the table, between our son and daughter-in-law, would be a new little grandson, lulled to sleep by the click, click, click of a swing. We veterans of the previous years, though thrilled with the changes (save losing my father), couldn't get over the fragility of our assumptions about the future.
I've noticed the same thing in writing a novel. While I like to think that I have a strong story line plotted out, that I know the path my main character will take, that I've decided what the supporting cast will look like, and most critically, that I know what my story is about, the truth is, my characters wander off to places I never knew they would go, with people I hadn't planned on creating, for reasons I had never considered. So, even when I think I can control the story by actually writing it, I find that stories have lives of their own that sweep us along in their current. There's no predicting the future, even when you're the one at the keyboard.