Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Runaway Plot Slides Toward Home

That's my writing headline for yesterday. You may have noticed I blog about this a lot, and by this I mean plot running away or outlines getting thrown off course. That's because it happens to me just about every time I sit down to write. I figure I have two choices when my characters get ahead of my outline:

1) Go with it and see where it leads


2) Scrap it and send my characters back to the fork in the road

As painful as #2 is, there have definitely been times when I've had to do this. The plot twist just happened too soon, or in the wrong way. Or maybe a side character became way more important than he/she was meant to be.

But my favorite is when I've been thinking about the story and characters so hard and for so long that even my plot twists aim me back home. That detour I took? Turned out to be a shortcut. Suddenly that open-ended mystery I dropped into chapter three makes perfect sense, and it's totally by accident.

Or is it?

There's obviously something brainish(TM)* going on here. My subconscious knows, even if I am not aware, how this story is going to unfold. I may think I've plotted six points and am meandering through them on my way to a fully developed story, but my subconscious mind already put A and B together with plot point E, and did it in a way I never expected.

I love this and I hate this, but it's the way I write. Any more structured and the story starts to feel contrived. Still, the only way it works is if I THINK about my story. All the time. This annoys those around me, most especially my poor husband who has to put up with plot and character epiphanies during our favorite TV shows, while we're brushing our teeth, and even during the sacred family dinner time.

Are you working on a novel? Is it embedded deeply in your subconscious?

*When Google Chrome red-underlines a word, I assume I've made it up and add the TM for kicks and giggles.


  1. Curse of the pants. But I'm like you, I love it too much to let the hating parts change my process. Glad to know I'm no alone in the plots going where they want sometimes! #2 does suck.

  2. Yeah, I loosely outline, but then I let my characters run wild. Usually means going back and chopping a bunch, but the gems I stumble along as I go totally make up for it. :)

  3. Yep! I'm still trying to figure out how to find a balance between having enough of an outline to give me direction, but no so much that it ends up being forced or flat. It's tricky.

  4. I know what you mean! I have to think about my characters and plots before I pen them, but once I have given some considerable time to construct and reflect, my story and characters wont let me sleep until I have written them down(or at least an outline!)

    Runaway plots are a true test of characters having a mind of their own! :D

    Happy Writing!

  5. I tend to have an outline, but my characters will decide there's important parts I didn't include in it. But for the most part, they stick to my structure :) I'm lucky haha

  6. I start with an outline, but it changes...a lot. When I'm working on a W.I.P. my entire life circles around it. I feel bad for my husband sometimes, but not to the point of guilt :)

  7. I do the same thing, obsess, obsess, obsess over my characters. And they don't like to cooperate very often either. Who knew the children of our brains had minds of their own?

  8. OH yes, when I'm writing a novel, I'm like a mad woman. I'm there with my eyes open but in my head, I'm a million miles away. I start writing the first chapter before writing out the outline for the book. Good luck!

  9. You guys rock. It's nice knowing we all struggle with this, plotters and pantsers alike. Makes me feel more normal. Hee hee.

    Angela, I loved what you said: "Who knew the children of our brains had minds of their own?"

    Writers are all crazy and I love it.

  10. Loved the TM - made me smile.


Speak up! You will be heard...or read.