Thursday, August 19, 2010

Plotting problems

A friend of mine was mentioning today that for her, plot is everything. The characters have to fit her plot and if they don't she chains them up and forces them to bend to her will (I'm paraphrasing here, Laura, but you know what I mean). I'm the opposite. When I start a story I often have no idea what will happen in it. I just have a character. What that character ends up doing, is, for a large part of the time, out of my hands. I know that sounds crazy, but that's how I write. I don't understand how people can outline a story or novel because for me, I don't have any idea where my characters might lead me.

Okay, I may have some idea about a central theme, or where I want the character to end up, but for the most part, I just write and see where I go. I guess it's like taking a mystery holiday, where you don't know the destination, but know you're going by train.

Which is why I'm having a problem now, in Prayer and Prey. In every scenario I try, Danny is acting out of character. Even in my latest attempt, the one I'm happiest with, I'm not sure it works. Through the writing of the book, he has become so real, so fleshed out, that it is impossible to force him to behave in a way that doesn't fit his character. Yet to move the plot forward, these events need to happen, and he cannot intervene. If I'd plotted it all out first, I would have discovered this problem, and perhaps his character would have been different as a result.

I'm curious about the whole outline thing. Does it work for you? Do you stick to it religiously? Or do you let your characters have the freedom to digress from the path you think you've set them on. If you use an outline, do you write from beginning to end? I write scenes all over the place then join them up at the end. One day I might write something at the end of the book, the next something from the middle. It is not unusual for me to write the ending before I write the beginning.

Am I weird?


  1. I think in this same conversation, someone mentioned that you can't let your characters do what they want, because they won't challenge themselves. I think there's a line somewhere that has to be walked (though I write a lot like what you're describing). For me, it's not a matter of just "what would my character do" it has to be taken a word further "what would my character do IF".

    And I abhore outlines, but have come to realize I need them. I think its a personal thing, but like you if left to my own devices I just write individual scenes. Problem is, without an outline, my individual scenes never piece together because I don't like writing the stuff that comes in between.

    Whatever you figure out that works, do share and best of luck :-D

  2. Yup... The joining together bits suck. I hate them because they're the boring bits. But necessary. Like editing. Getting sick of that, I tell you!