On Monday, I drove down to my alma mater to take an office skills test. (Oh, the drudgery.) On the way down there, I saw two men hitchhiking. Now, being a single female, I’m never inclined to pick up hitchhikers. One of these hitchhikers was thumbing it right where the freeway onramp merges with the freeway. On the side of the freeway! The other was on the side of the road as it turned into a freeway onramp. The first wasn’t getting picked up. I doubt he would get much business where the cars are supposed to be going along at freeway speeds. (Though no driver in the area has yet to pick up on the concept of freeway onramp.)

Driving along down the map of our novels, there will be hitchhikers. We must decide whether to pick them up. Often, it will be a short journey if we do. No more than a couple of blocks. But sometimes there’s that hitchhiker that refuses to go away, the one you fear will turn out to be a mass murderer.

How to decide whether to pick them up or not?

It’s a tough call. Sometimes they’re there with their thumbs out at the end of the freeway onramp as we’re zooming along at top speeds writing, enjoying ourselves, and liking where the story is going.

Other times they’re there before we even take off on our writing for the day or week or whenever it is we’re sitting down to right. These are the ones that are easy to pick up and integrate into the story as they’re needed.
So far, I haven’t had any character hitch a ride for longer than a couple of blocks. (Equivalent to a handful of pages.) These are the sorts of hitchhikers that are liable to being cut from the end result of the manuscript. It’s the ones with potential to fulfill all the nightmares instilled via urban legends that will take over the book and make it more than it already is.

Related in the blogosphere:

Don’t Dis the Map Part 1 @ The Innocent Flower
Don’t Dis the Map Part 2 @ The Innocent Flower
Don’t Dis the Map Part 3 @ The Innocent Flower
Letting your characters tell their story