When writing a story – short or novel length – are plans crucial?
Some would say yes others not so much. The former create a plan in detail and stick almost rigidly to that plan, creating a well-crafted story. The latter are known as discovery writers as they discover along with the characters they have created the story as they go. I believe Enid Blyton was one such, I’m sure there are many, many more.
My writing practice lies somewhere between the two. Initially I find a plan can be a great help as it creates a structure for a story to hang on, so it is well displayed in my mind at the start of writing. This helps me to shape the narrative paths along which my characters will journey.
So, I make a plan of sorts, and it all starts out really well, but after a while I go off one tangent or another. I might be taken on an escapade by a particularly adventurous character, or a vastly more interesting narrative might come to mind, and so the plan falls to myriad fragments. Sometimes I might pick up a few of those fragments and see if they are of any use anymore, sometimes not. It is the way of plans – chance allows for much to go awry betwixt planning and page. Often I create a new plan, one that suggests itself half way through the book, by which I see how the story ends and how to get to that point. It is a natural, organic thing, that works with the flow of writing. When there is a flow, of course.
Katleya aef Laeft was one such unruly character. In my plan for The Cracked Amulet she was never supposed to find her power until she reached Ostorr Haven. But ,in the heat of the battle in the Malappa Heights, her blood was up and she wasn’t about to wait for Coryn aef Arlean to kill the Blood-priest who held a knife to her throat. In that one terrifying and enraged moment, she put together all she’d learned through watching Dame Mureen working her Wealdan, and she fought against all her Uncle Yadoc’s training. Year after year of teaching her to see the Wefan but dire warnings against ever touching or using it. Katleya owned that scene and broke my plan. Not only did she touch the Wefan, but she used it and so changed the course of her own story.
I was pleased. It meant that my character, Katleya, had grown and matured into a truly feisty woman. She had become so real that her will overthrew mine. Almost like a real human girl.
I am happy, so happy, to be a writer.
R B Watkinson