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monsoon's avatar

People who write fiction: Do you lay out the entire elaborate story before-hand, or figure it out as your characters do?

Asked by monsoon (2505points) July 29th, 2009

Just curious.


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27 Answers

filmfann's avatar

You need to know where you are going before you plan your route.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I disagree with filmfann but it’s probably the reason I’m not an accomplished author. xD

Blondesjon's avatar

I start with an idea and a very rough idea of how it pans out. From that point on it is up to the main players in the story to show me which way to go.

a little drinky drink doesn’t exactly hurt either.

kenmc's avatar

Exactly what @Blondesjon said.

MindErrantry's avatar

I try to do a lot of planning, to make sure that I don’t write myself into a corner later, and to make sure I don’t have to find solutions to things which I’m not satisfied with. That being said, I usually let the characters figure out individual scenes for me, running it over and over again in my mind until I understand how they’d react; I also adopt new ideas for the story if something occurs to me and one of the characters really seem to take to it.

Elle's avatar

I start with the characters. I collect a set of characters with compelling motives, toss them together in a salad bowl, shake the salad bowl roughly and attempt to drown them with dressing—and from there, see how the characters battle their way to a lettuce leaf raft.

So, no, I don’t plan much out. I like to let my characters drive the story, and feel it out from there.

Um….stressed somewhat from work, mayhaps, pardon the really weird metaphor

Peinrikudo's avatar

I pretty much plot everything out. When I begin a novel, I always know how it will begin and how it will end, but say something as trivial as who lives or who dies does not always go how I plan it. Sometimes, it really does write itself. It’s almost like it’s beyond my control, but whenever it happens, I’m glad because it’s even better than how I had planned it. =]

I don’t usually plan everything out, but I guess different methods work for different people.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I get the plot ironed out, major ‘twists’, if you will, and the general personalities and motives for the main characters, I write a rough draft of how I want the story to progress and the kind of style it should be. put it down and forget about it for a few days/weeks/months, pick it back up and fill in the details.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Funny thing, I start out with a piece of conversation, or simply a place in the story, and then branch out in all directions from that point. Odd way to do it, but it works for me.

Case in point, my short story about the atheist who spent three days in Heaven got its start from a smart ass quip about what gay Christians do in Heaven, which is pull weeds in the garden.

The scariest part of writing I’ve ever dealt with was when a main character in my novella about global warming and a totalitarian civilization in the future ‘spoke’ to me, telling me why he had to die, and what purpose his sacrifice would serve. That was three years ago. I haven’t touched that work since.

kenmc's avatar

It also helps to base your fiction in fact.

A lot of my short stories are at least partial reality.

monsoon's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra, about the gay christians, that’s witty. Sorry, I guess I should have elaborated.

filmfann's avatar

@Peinrikudo Welcome to Fluther. Lurve.

Pol_is_aware's avatar

I usually day dream about my story for several days/weeks before doing anything with it. I can have many, many details before the first words are written, and anything that I may forget isn’t worth keeping. So in my case, I do let my characters decide the story as it goes through my mind, usually having strong themes or impressions that guide them. But I wait until I have a beginning and an end to start “working.”

Any idea can create a story; Any element can fuel the imagination to the end of a finished novel.

hex's avatar

I like to mind map, to a certain degree, then from that understand the characters and the situation (if any), and let the characters attempt to resolve it based on their attributes and my writing skill (or lack of), so, hopefully, the story kind of writes itself

Ria777's avatar

in answer to the original post, I doubt that very many writers work the entire elaborate storyline beforehand, though some do. most work falls between the two extremes. I would do whatever suited me and whatever suited the story.

julia999's avatar

Sometimes it’s easier to just write Chapter One knowing only roughly what your characters are like. However, it’s much easier to know what the drama/plot will be, you’re more likely to develop (and like) your characters properly and to personally WANT to finish the book.

MrBr00ks's avatar

I tend to approach a story much like Evelens Pet zebra. Writing conversation is my strongest ability, so I naturally start with that. Everyone should try starting with their strongest part at least once, whether its writing narrative, conversation, description of people/nature etc., and branch out from there. It is kind of fun.

filmfann's avatar

@MrBr00ks welcome to fluther. Lurve.

serendipity's avatar

I didn’t lay out an elaborate story ahead of time, no. I did have a sense of where I was going but I didn’t plot it out point by point. But this really depends upon what type of story you want to write—some genres need intricate plotting (for example mysteries) whereas others rely more heavily on characterization.

MrBr00ks's avatar

ty filmfann.

Response moderated
Dilettante's avatar

I use the “Storyboard” technique. I get a batch of old-fashioned 3X5 index cards, plenty of those plastic multicolored stickpins, and a good ol’ huge cork bulletin board. The visual/textural method comes naturally, using different cards for character development, storyline, plot, narrative, etc. When they’re laid out in front of me like that, I can simply move them around; change them, add more. The very act of doing it becomes a creative process.
I hope I’ve made it clear…a bit difficult to explain, I’ve been doing it for so long I just take it for granted. I admit I’m a bit of a dinosaur, and there’s no doubt all kinds of software nowadays. Just answering your question from personal experience.

Austinlad's avatar

Check out the WRITERS AT WORK book series, edited by George Plimpton from his interviews over the years with famous writers of the 20th century for the Paris Review. You’ll find that each writer had his or her own way of writing. It was a total revelation to me to discover that there’s no one “right” way to write.

Roby's avatar

I have my plot,characters,and the story line in mind within a few days. All that is left to do
is put everything together on my word processor as if I am working a puzzle and polish it untill I feel it’s ready.

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