I imagine plenty of people think the story is the writer's. Nothing happens in the story unless the writer wants it that way. However, that's definitely not what happens. No, the characters yank the story from your hands, then run off with it and do whatever they jolly well please.
While reading an issue of Writer's Digest recently, I saw a great example of this. There was an author who, when signing books, would often write, "I'm sorry about Page 194. I tried to talk her out of it." And he insisted that was really the case; he wanted the story to go one way, but the character did something totally different.
So what is this 'totem pole' described in the title, and what does it consist of? Well, allow me to explain. And no, I'm not winning, as I'll soon discuss.