I will start by saying that I am a plot driven writer.
I am not a character writer.
This actually surprises me somewhat in that I find people endlessly fascinating in a psychological sense. I can spend numerous hours analysing human actions and motivations, yet when it comes to writing characters none of this interest seems to rub off. The characters I have written so far for Prophecy of Innocence were, in all honesty, in no way mapped out before I started writing. I came up with the name of the first character who appears in the story completely off the top of my head as I began to write and I certainly had no idea of what kind of character he would be until I began allowing him to speak. This has happened with every character I have written so far. I didn’t plan them. They just kind of organically appeared. Only afterwards did I write notes and profiles on them so as not to forget who they were.
Now I do not know if this is tolerable in the writing world – which seems so stuck on rules and etiquette, But hang etiquette. It’s never been my way to follow the crowd or keep to etiquette especially. However, whether right or wrong, it works for me. I have read so many blogs from writers who talk about writing character profiles and spending ages fleshing out who the character is, what their motivations are, what they look like, how they think, how they speak etc…but I don’t get it. I tried it once but it didn’t work for me. I found the exercise dry and dull and quite frankly limiting as the character was out of their context. It felt almost like an exercise I would make children do in a literacy lesson in school. (Should we do that to children? Another debate for another day perhaps?) Anyway for whatever reason it just doesn’t work for me and I prefer my characters to just pop up without my express planned permission. People pop up in my life without planning or permission so why not in writing?
So, to reiterate, I am a plot driven writer. All the ideas I have for stories come from an idea of ‘what if?’…the characters are secondary. So, you would assume it must be a doddle for me to write as I have a plot laid out and I follow it, right?
I do have a better idea of plot and where it’s going than I do with characters, granted. But plot – particularly with the second part of my trilogy – is giving me a headache and there are times when I quite literally feel I am losing the plot.
Today was a typically good example of the problem with plot.
I have many scribbled notes (and some really neatly written ones too) in a notebook about how the plot unfolds and where it leads across all three books. Unfortunately my damn characters keep popping up and getting in the way by coming up with brilliant stuff and saying and doing things I never intended in my none-planning part of the process. Therefore I have to keep altering events in the plot. (Serves me right I suppose for not having a firmer structure and plan.) Anyway having happily reached the end of chapter 5 the other day I went back to my notes and in doing so I discovered one major plot hole problem. However, undeterred, I diligently set about re-writing my notes to ensure the large gaping hole would cease to exist and I managed to come up with something quite brilliant (even if I do say so myself) and got really excited about it. That was until I realised this one tiny change could mean having to completely re-write two chapters.
If only it was this simple!…
So…back to the draft I went and looked at the laptop screen. And looked again. And looked some more. Could I move the two chapters to fit in later? Perhaps. It was an option and not a bad one either. But no, something didn’t quite fit for another part of the plot. I pondered on the point for a long time and re-sketched out a plot outline in note form in my notebook again.
But nothing was helping and I began to feel as though I was actually losing the plot of the story. I was going around in circles and getting nowhere. This is one of the pitfalls of writing an epic fantasy novel though which relies on a long historical timeline. So I only have myself to blame when I get tied up in knots.
Anyway after a few frustrating hours of not quite knowing where to go next I took a deep breath or ten. And do you know what I did? I simply went back to the keyboard and carried on writing from where I had left off. I delved right into chapter 6. And would you believe it? The characters sorted the problem out for me! Those damned unplanned characters who can say and do things without my say so only went and found the solution to my plot problem. The question of whether one of the characters immortalises himself or not was answered. Furthermore the same character did something else quite ingenious which I did not plan on at all but which turns out will be quite a pivotal moment in plot development.
Plans are all well and good. But since when did the best laid plans ever turn out as expected? Next time I feel like I’m losing the plot, I will have to remember to just go with the flow.
Besides, isn’t any journey better when you just let it take its own course? When you let it surprise you with its own twists and turns and unexpected events rather than plan every stop and event along the way? Sometimes even the destination itself might turn out to be different from the one you planned originally and quite often isn’t that when the best things happen and when we have the best time?
Thanks for stopping by on this leg of the writing journey. Until the next time..,