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?