Saturday, October 26, 2013

Giving Plot to the Plotless (Part 1: The Affair)

So, as we have discussed in the intro to this venture, my friend and I only meant to write one scene between these characters, just out of curiosity. We'll call them R and A, for the purposes of this post. Character R and A had established lives at the time of this scene because they belonged to our separate stories. In fact, they both already had love interests. They were in pairing we were quite proud of actually. We fully shipped the pairings we had created. And love triangles weren't our thing.

Before I began writing this, I'd never had the problem of having characters 'go rogue' so to speak. They sometimes developed in ways that surprised me but I always had a good idea who they were from the start. People often talk about their characters taking the reigns from them and driving them in another direction. I always thought this was a funny, exaggeration of sorts.

It is not.

In the midst of writing our sixth scene between these characters, they were having a rather emotional discussion after A had been disturbed by a nightmare. We wrote the scene as usual and finished it. But then my friend and I facebooked each other at about the same time: I feel like a kiss should have been there.

Our characters were bizarrely attracted to each other. Even though they were in happy relationships. We questioned this phenomenon for a moment and then decided to go for it. It wasn't like it was going to go anywhere.

A few scenes later our characters, A and R, were officially in an affair. Behind our backs. We just kept on writing scenes with them and they kept wanting romantic moments. Did we give them permission to do that? NO! In fact a few scenes earlier, before the first kiss, we talked about how they would NEVER be in any sort of romantic relationship. They were perfectly happy where they were. We're in total control of our characters anyway.

Right?

No, apparently not. A and R decided to go rogue. And it was this first kiss between them, this "Literary Affair" that lead to about 2,000 pages worth of material. From two writers who don't write romance. And all because, each time we got an idea, we let our characters take the reigns. And we got a lovely mass of words because of it.

We also didn't get very much homework or sleep done, but that's beside the point.

Tune in next time for Part 2: The Love Kite

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Giving Plot to the Plotless (Introduction: The Experiment)

When it comes to starting a book, there are two kinds of writers: Pantsers and Plotters. We've heard this many times before, and by now most of us know where we stand on the spectrum. We either start writing and fly by the seat of our pants, letting our writing lead us where we may, or we sit down and outline our book from start to finish before we type the first word. Or, sometimes, a mix of both.

For awhile, I thought I was a pantser because, hey, I never wrote down outlines. I thought about the story in my head for a few days, then started writing. But as I matured as a writer, I realized I'd always been an plotter at heart. I was just too stubborn to put the outline down on paper.

In fact, its kind of impossible for me to be a pantser. When an idea hits me--a really good, I-need-to-write-this-down-now, kind of idea-- it often explodes. Within a few days of daydreaming I have the beginning, middle and end basically plotted out in my head and character arcs and relationships nailed down. I just need to fill in a few gaps and pieces before I'm ready to roll. My ideas mature very quickly and its hard for me to step into a story having no idea where its going to go.

And then, last year, something happened. Almost a year ago today in fact. I met my friend. We'll call her 'T' for short. T and I were talking about two of our characters in one of our writing conversations. She was recounting her main character's past and I kept on chiming in saying 'oh yeah, my character had something similar happen to him'. Eventually this expanded. Our characters would get along, we decided. In fact, it would be very interesting to write a conversation with them. Just one conversation to see what happened.

They had a conversation. Then we decided to write another scene. Then another. And yet another. Slowly, other characters started getting involved as we experimented relationships. New plot threads came in. And we just kept going, and going, and going. As of now, we have written about 2,000 pages of material.

Yikes right?

It gets even better. Now we're trying to distill all of this original material into a series of books with a plot. And it isn't easy. But it is one of the most fun and strange experiences I have ever had writing.

This is an interesting journey I've embarked on, and a long one. But I think its worth writing about because it has been a really unique experience for me. I'm an plotter who's been taken by her characters and dragged by the seat of her pants through hundreds of thousands of words of scenes in just a year.

The journey is still going, but let's see how far we've come, while discussing writing tips, outlining and plotting. It might have some good lessons for NaNoWriMo in there, as well. ;)

Stay tuned for Part 1: The Affair.