Characters Know Best
Have you ever spent a lot of time plotting out a story, complete with a timeline and outline, only to have your characters hijack it? This happened with the first story in my YA fantasy series, set in my world of Pentallia. I spent months outlining, drawing up character sheets, and writing out scenes in a concise timeline, only to have my three main characters take my work and pitch in the garbage.
That first story was written in first person POV, and frankly, it didn’t work, for me, the characters, or the first publisher I sent it to. I’m currently rewriting it, in third person, and without an outline. My characters don’t respect those. I’m also planning to go the indie author route, with help from Wicked Whale Publishing.
But back to those characters who laughed at my huge binder of work. I still have it, but broke it down into multiple smaller notebooks and four Pinterest boards specific to their world. I refer to those things when my characters, my people, take me somewhere in their world I’m not quite familiar with. For the most part, I just try to keep up.
And you know what? Something amazing has happened along the way: my people actually know what they’re doing. This second version is so much better than the first. I have discovered I am not a first person POV writer. I have also realized that by letting my people go free to roam, they have it all worked out. Now that doesn’t mean it won’t need editing – it will. But it does mean that the story is much clearer, and the flow is right.
So where does this leave you? Do you have a huge binder filled with outlines and timelines your people won’t cooperate with? Why not try writing a chapter without referring to the binder (or notebook or Scrivener or whatever) and letting your characters do what they want? They might disappoint you. They might anger you. But, and this is why you should try it, they might surprise you. Mine did. They may wander on occasion, and I have to help them back to the task, but they seem to be getting it right.
Maybe yours will, too.