Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Wednesday Writing - To Plot or Not to Plot?

To plot or not to plot?

That is the question! Some authors like to meticulously plot their stories in advance including character profiles, motivation, world building and so on. While at the other end of the scale some people are what is called ‘pantsers’. In other words, they write by the ‘seat of their pants’.

I do some plotting in advance, eg, a very rough sketch for each chapter such as ‘visit BDSM club, take part in flogging’. I find this important so that I spread out all the good ideas for that story across the whole book, so that I have equal points of view throughout the story to avoid head hopping (jumping from one person’s viewpoint to the other), so that I have the required number of penetrative sex scenes (the publisher requires at least two) and so on. Although I do admit that I plotted a lot more for my first book, Just Good Friends’ – but possibly because I had been visualising it or composing it in my head for some time before I started writing it.

That may be it for that chapter until I start to write as I do enjoy the excitement of seeing what flows from my fingers. It really is a delight to see what comes to you in terms of characters, emotions, storyline, scene plots, etc.

Sometimes by letting the story come as you write I discover someone’s motivation that I hadn’t thought of before such as Ford, Max and Callum in ‘Collared by Wolves’ becoming friends when Ford and Callum joined forces to rescue Max from bullies.

I was intrigued recently reading that Tolkien (my favourite writer) was never one for planning everything out. Take Strider/Aragorn, in Lord of the Rings, for example. Apparently he originally intended him to be named Trotter(!) and he just fancied having a mysterious, slightly menacing character to frighten the hobbits at Bree. Tolkien had no idea who this guy was when he introduced the character at this point in the story!!!

In another article about filming the life of a chimp family, the director said a particular chimp ‘wrote himself into the film’ – they had no intention of using him as the main focus.

This is so true. You can plan who your main characters will be and what their personalities are like, but when you start writing they may take you in a different direction altogether – or a secondary character may become a main one. The latter happened to me in ‘Chasing Emily’. She had been introduced in ‘Wife for Three’ but I had no intention of making her the heroine of the sequel!!

As for the characters taking you in a different direction, Dan in ‘Friend or Foe’ was going to be much more of a nemesis to Gina, but he insisted on being quite sweet! And I have had comments that Ben in ‘Submissive Training’ came over as something of a prat (or something like that). Yup. He came over to me that way too. Nothing I could do about it, that’s how he wanted to be!!

And it’s not just the characters. A review of the ‘Submissive Training’ said they found it quite humorous in places and yet I had never intended to include any humour, not like in my romantic comedies, eg, ‘Friendly Seduction’ where it is deliberate (and I had great fun writing it!)

There are some books you just have to plot in advance, particularly when writing with another author like I did with Susan Laine on ‘The Last Werewolf’. We had to make sure we were writing the same story(!) and that the characters were consistent. But in brainstorming (which was SUCH fun!) it often gave me ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of myself.

And if you are doing a series or writing in a particular genre, eg, BDSM, I found it necessary after my second book ‘The Submission Challenge’ to start drawing up a list of characters’ looks so that they were different, eg, a brunette and a blond in the first, two dark haired in the next, a red head and a light brown and so on, but also that I wasn’t using the same ‘props’ each time and that I included different ones, eg, paddling, flogging, clamps etc. In this particular book being naked on a garden table while being massaged is the only time I’ve used this so far.

The thing I tend to find the most difficult to plot in advance is motivation. I had an idea for a story, eg, a woman jilts her fiancĂ© at the altar and years later he delights in being the person to train her at a BDSM club as in ‘Retraining the Sub’. But until I started writing I had no idea why she jilted him (I wrote in that she was shy with domineering parents and didn’t want to get into a relationship with someone else who was going to turn out the same way).

So, after all that, what was the most astonishing discovery as I let the words flow?…. In ‘The Sub Who Switched’ I had a completely different ending to the story originally which is the total opposite of what it became (I’m not going to say what in case you haven’t read it yet!)


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