I am one-quarter into the sixth book of my Haunted Library series. I love my characters, love writing about their relationships, adventures and watching them grow. Up until now, I have written an outline for each book which I follow loosely—taking detours and making changes as I move farther along in the manuscript. I've discovered that with each book I write, I'm doing less initial plotting and more pantsing. I find this method more liberating, and frankly it's more fun to see what escapades my characters get into as they gather information to solve mysteries. So far, my muse has never let me down.
Along with my sleuth, Carrie Singleton, every book in my Haunted Library series involves the people in Carrie's life: her fiancé, her best friend, Evelyn the Ghost, the police chief, her colleagues and close relatives. Since a murder or two—or occasionally three—occur in every book, I bring in new characters, most of whom are either a victim or a suspect. Since I often write about two seemingly unrelated homicides, I need to create characters that bridge both storylines. Sometimes plotting gets very complicated, indeed!
In my current Work In Progress, a young, brash investigative reporter named Julie Theron announces on TV that a body has been discovered in an abandoned building. Julie appears a few days later to berate the police chief for not discovering the dead man's identity fast enough. In fact, she goes on to say that Carrie Singleton has solved most of his recent homicides. Finally, she declares that she, Julie Theron, is going to solve the murder herself!
Who does this Julie Theron think she is, worming her way into my plot? Sure, I need someone to report the news, but that doesn't give her the right to make herself part of the story. Though I didn't plan for this to happen, I quickly saw it for what it was--a wonderful new facet of my novel. And I knew how I was going to milk it, too.
I suppose Julie Theron came to life because of my looser, pantser style of plotting. Are you a pantser or a plotter? Or a combination of both?
I'm somewhere in the middle. And the process for each book varies.
I do love it when characters take the wheel and steer the story in an unexpected direction! Sounds like you're in for a fun ride, Marilyn!
I'm primarily a pantser. Some intrusive characters end up working their way into permanent secondary character status. Others end up as the killer's next victim, showing them that even a pantser author is ultimately the boss of the story.
Glad to hear you’ve found the best way for you despite an occasional uppity character.
I love a new character, intrusive or not. I was recently told to name a secondary character, and as soon as he had a name, his abrasive personality appeared.
I'm half plotter, half pantster - a plantster. It's an organic process. Have fun with that new character, Marilyn, but keep an eye on her.
Ah, yes. The characters who refuse to conform to what we think they should do. I've met any number of them. Sometimes I find the best way to deal with them is to write a short story with them as the main character. It often makes them less demanding in other ways.
I'm a big plotter, Marilyn, though my characters are the ones in control. When I introduced a new character in book three of my Allie Cobb Mysteries, I had no idea how important she would become. I bet she did, though!
Wonderful story, Marilyn! I have a foot in both camps. My books begin with a series of scenes and bullet points that provide a loose structure and important guideposts. After that, I let the story take me away. Sounds a lot like your process. I’m looking forward to Julie’s debut and reading how Carrie handles her.
Thank you all for your comments re your plotting method and re my new character. Like Annette and Molly, I'm a bit of both, but becoming more of a pantser every day!
Oh, and you, too, Kait—having a foot in both camps!
I pants but how I'd love to be a plotter, to have the security of knowing how everything will go between the first and last pages of the book.
Julie sounds like she could become a scene-stealer - watch out!
Shari, She's already causing trouble!
great post. I'm still trying to decide which I am. I plot, then the characters disagree, and I replot. I got all the way to the last couple of chapters, and they decided to change who the bad guy was! Now I have a lot of revising to do.
Oh, Tammy, what a bunch of bossy characters you have! Still, you have to listen to what they say.
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