At the suggestion of Kristen Lamb, (she of the We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (indispensible IMHO), I just read James Scott Bell’s book “Plot & Structure.” It was a little scary reading it since I was more than half way done with the novel I’m writing, so much of the plotting had already been done. But with some helpful tweaks, I learned I was, more or less, doing it right and since I was right in the middle, was able to weave in some “ratcheting up” moments in intensity and conflict.
But the point of my post today has to do with the section in his book where he talks about the two different kinds of writers there are: the ones who live and die by the outline before they start writing and the ones who fly down the mountain letting spontaneity and fate have their way, largely, with the direction of their trajectory. Basically, he calls them No Outline People (NOP) and Outline People (OP). The NOPs, as he points out, have the advantage of spontaneity but they’ll labor longer in rewrite and probably waste some time going down blind alleyways. The OPs, on the other hand, can feel secure in their journey through the book that they know where they’re going…after all, they have a map…but they’ll likely sacrifice some surprises if they don’t fit the outline as written. Mr. Bell suggests the possibility that the sweet spot may be a variation of the two.
I discovered this for myself this week. I’m at the part of my book—maybe the best part—where it’s all coming together. I know where I’m going (I have an outline to go by) and I know what’s coming. I think about the coming showdown in the book before I go to bed at night, I ponder it as I’m washing dishes. I’m at the point in the book where all of if is a little bigger than life for me right now. I know who’s going to get killed and when and why. It’s been all carefully mapped out.
Which is why it surprised the crap out of me this week when I sat down to craft out Seamus’s murder scene only to discover that the man wouldn’t die.
Seriously! I sat there looking at my outline where it clearly said he needed to die to reinforce what a bad guy Finn was and to raise the stakes for Ellen as a setup for the next scene. It was right there in black and white but when I started writing the scene, I felt a physical resistance to killing him off! What was going on here? I got up, took a break, watered the garden and came back. Nope. I could virtually see my character cross his arms and look at me with defiance....