Sunday, June 29, 2014

When Characters Hijack the Outline

Today I took a look at the outline for the final chapters of The Storm Women. Last week I finally put Chapter 14 to bed and found that the Chapter 15 outline takes the story places my characters no longer want to go. I rather guiltily deleted the Chapter 15 outline in its entirety and began writing the following chapter without losing the basic thread of the story.

The question facing me now, “Does an outline help or hinder the writing of a novel?” I’ve heard some authors say they wouldn’t think of writing without an outline, and others who feel constrained by using one. Of course, I expected changes in the outline would emerge, but not so drastic as to cause the demolition of an entire chapter. And I have a feeling much more dismantling is yet to come.

Now that I’ve gotten to know Opal better, I can see the story playing out in a much different way than I’d planned when I wrote the outline.  Secondly, each of the elements in the outline take many more words to express than I imagined. And third, as the characters reveal themselves, their personalities begin to dictate the plot line.

I recently read that it’s not good to worry about the plot too much, but rather to let the characters actions and personalities reveal the story’s direction. It seems this gradual process gets sidelined when a predetermined destiny is spelled out in an outline. Here I thought I’d done a great thing by actually finishing an outline for this novel. Previously I’d get only halfway into a novel’s outline and maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

Defining my writing process has proven to be much more complicated than I originally anticipated. I’ve developed a style, but I’m still struggling with the best ways to approach the writing. I’m really annoyed with my characters for running amuck of my precious outline!

Tidbit: Giving up is not an option.

Saddle Up!

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