“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…”
There is always something intriguing about the road not traveled. And as writers, we often leave a lot of roads uncovered, unexplored as we plot and piece together our novels or short stories. Why does a plot bunny dive down one hole and not the other? It is an intriguing question, and I have always found it fascinating when author’s reveal some of their reasoning for how their novel arrived to print as it is — or even more tantalizing, how it might have been.
J.K. Rowling is one of those authors who gives some insight into her works, including the roads not taken. Back in February, she had dropped a bombshell to shippers throughout the Harry Potter fandom when she stated that Hermione might actually have been happier with Harry rather than with Ron, her cannon husband. Fans of HermionexRon took up arms with many stating Rowling should keep her mouth shut. With their pants in a bunch, they fail to see that HermionexRon is cannon: It is in print and it isn’t going anywhere. However, for those who are not so tied to pairings, it was a window into “what if.” Rowling has also revealed several other possibilities in the past, including the originally planned death of Arthur Weasley.
I am a huge fan of AUs, or alternative universes, so when a writer shares potential divergent roads, I don’t mind it; in fact, I welcome such insight into their writing process from the horse’s mouth as it were. Often AUs come in the shape of fan-written fanfics, where fans highlight areas within a work, whether it be a novel, TV series or film, that could have had other outcomes. There are hundreds of these types of works, from Hermione ending up with Draco to Star Wars character Anakin Skywalker not falling to the dark side. While these are fun reads, they don’t quite have the draw as when a creator drops little tidbits.
Looking at my own works, I seldom consider my own uncovered rabbit holes. In fact, I rarely imagine my tales being any different; but then again, when I actually look at my writing process, it is filled with constant changes and revisions. Actions change, characters evolve… truly the writing process is a fascinating one, filled with twists and turns. However, on the whole, I do not usually pause to look down a road until it bends into the undergrowth. But I have wondered, what twisty avenues fanficers would take my works should I every publish. At first I could not think of any divergent trails, because “how it is suppose to be” remained firmly rooted in mind. But as I continued to look, I could see little trails the rabbit could have sprung down for better or for worse.
What would have happened if instead of returning home as a child, my one main character had remained at a temple as a clergy member? With the action already set to occur no matter what, what would have been the consequences of his new role? It is fun to consider these possibilities and their potential outcomes; however, I do not let them distract me from the reality of the novel. Things are set and unlikely to change, especially not to that extreme — just like Rowling isn’t about to change her works to make HermionexHarry reign supreme.
So what trails have you passed over in your own works? It is surely worth a look if only for the fun of it.