Whose in Control of Your Outline?

To plan or not to plan, that is the question that we plan to answer today, but hey, who knows what I’ll end up rambling about by the end of this post!

Anyway, lets just imagine you’re sat here staring at a blank page, you have this idea in your head, this event that has sparked something inside of you, and now, you want to write about it. But! Do you sit and plan it, or do you just start writing?

It’s sounds, and feels great having an outline, having a start and an end, but there’s something else there as well. Something that will throw you off your course if your too meticulous, if you never stray from the outline you created. And that is your characters.

Your characters are the first point and call that your readers will know off, their the ones who might tell the story, or show the reader how the story ends up; and most of the time, they grow and stray away from the people you thought they would be, and with that, comes plot holes and mistakes and things that wouldn’t necessarily happen if the characters were allowed to grow naturally with the plot.

Obviously, if your characters are already full developed before you start on the outlining of your plot, it’s much easier to plot it, and to stick to it and not have all those plot holes, etc. However, your characters need to be willing to take control and drive your plot where you want it to go, and for this, you need to know how they will react to certain things, and you have to make them real people.

Obviously, you could sit and write a profile about them. You know, all the basic things – name, age, appearance, personality, but, they also have to grow, they have to develop, because every day changes you, so it should change you’re characters as well. It makes them more relateable, and more real for the reader, and sometimes, you won’t know how a character will react until you’ve written about them going through whatever you want them to go through.

For example, do you know straight off the bat if they: Would give a penny to a homeless man? Would they choose to spend a night in or go out? Would they live without regrets? Would they sacrifice themselves for a stranger? Would they lie? Would they kill? Would they fall in to a depression?

The only way you’ll truly know is if you write about it. You know the events and tests that your character is going to go through, and how they end up will depend on them. With enough planning, it can work, you can flesh out your characters perfectly, and they will do and act the way you want it to happen, but, then perhaps you feel like adding something different, and you don’t want to because you feel like you need to keep to the plan that you’ve written.

It’s good to plan your novel, or short story, especially if it’s intricate and complex (even if it isn’t, its good to plan), but you need to remember that it’s a tool to help you, and the last thing you should do is let it be restrictive. The structure of it has to be flexible, and it has to cater to the people you put in to the plot as it can feel like they’ve completely taken over – which can be hard if you’ve already planned it.

My current WIP is a big quadrilogy, and it’s been planned in the sense that I know what’s semi-going to happen, and who’s going to die, who’s going to live, and how they get from the beginning to the end, but I’ve not outlined it in the sense that I know every little bit of how the story will go. Perhaps I let the characters dictate the plot too much, but, half-the-time, it never wants to go the way I want it to, and, it’s kind of exciting to learn about the characters in their own way then plan out the way I want their lives to go. I think if they have the same mind-set as you, they somehow work towards that end goal you have planned, just a bit differently to how you plotted it out.

So, I think what you really need to is sort of be a planster, which I guess is the word for someone between a planner and a non-planner. The plot needs to be flexible, because you can plan from the beginning to the end and something might happen, you might get a wave of inspiration for a new character who wasn’t necessarily part of the plan, or the end of a character might feel more right than letting them go on.

And whether you plan it or not, editing is horrible, but is also a writers best friend. And, you can start writing even without a definitive plot!

Obviously, it’ll be different for each person, but I know people who have been planning for years and never get to the writing.

Sometimes its better to just start writing and plan it along the way! And that way, you will find whats best for you!

I hope you have a great day, and…

Just Keep Writing!