Monday, March 19, 2012

Stepping Outside My Carefully Laid Plans

As I’ve stated in this blog on more than one occasion, I am a plotter vs. a pantser.  There’s nothing wrong with being a pantser if that approach fits your writing style.  (For those who don’t know, a pantser is someone who writes a story by the seat of their pants, not planning it out in detail ahead of time.)  I actually did a lot of writing for many years as a pantser.  I was afraid that I would lose interest in a story if I knew how everything was going to work out ahead of time.   At the time, I was also more concerned about just learning the art of telling a story, learning the balance of description, internal monologue, and dialogue.

I did make one brief foray into plotting when I attempted my first fantasy novel while in high school.  For that story, there were several plotlines that I was weaving while attempting to balance three different points of view.  (Yeah, quite an ambitious project for a freshman in high school.)  I actually finished that book a few years later and started on the sequel, but I packed it away for other projects that allowed me to be a pantser again.

When I started the Dark Days series, I moved firmly into the land of the plotter, which is where I hope I stay.  Planning out a story ahead of time takes some of the stress out of the project as you always know where you are headed.  What shocked me as I worked on each book of the Dark Days series was the fact that the story still held a number of surprises for me despite the fact that I knew what I was going to happen.  Sometimes it came in the form of an event, a character revelation, or even a new character that I hadn’t initially planned on.

I continue to be a plotter in the new Asylum Tales series.  The first book was very carefully plotted out before I even started the first chapter and had many surprises since it was an entirely new series, new world, and new characters.  The second book … ahh… the second book refused to be completely plotted.  When I started the book, I knew what I had to accomplish as it was tie up some problems I had created in Angel’s Ink.  The problem was that I hadn’t a clue as to how I would deal with it all.  In fact, for the first ten chapters, I would plot a few chapters and then write them before going back to plot a few more chapters on my outline.  It was only recently when the pieces finally fell into place for me and I completed the entire outline for the book. (And I have to say that I love it!)

But a funny thing happened to Gage as he headed into Chapter 13 this weekend.  He went to this restaurant looking for someone when I realized that this person wasn’t in the restaurant.  Common sense said, “Delete the two pages you wrote and start over.”  But to my shock, Gage put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Wait a minute.  Let me look around.  I think there’s something of interest here for me.”

Who did I listen to?

I trust my main character, so I listened to Gage.   He ended up having a very informative and interesting conversation with some people he hadn’t talked to since Angel’s Ink.  Right now, I really like the chapter and I think it will tie nicely with the end of the book.  It might end up on the cutting room floor at the end, but I liked stepping outside my carefully laid plot outline for that chapter and letting Gage run on instinct.  You can learn a lot about the world you’ve created and the characters you rely on when you let loose the reins every once in a while.

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