Chris is back with some questions that follow from the long post on plotting which people should look at if they haven’t seen it yet.
1. It seems as if the outline you mention at the beginning undergoes some fairly heavy changes as it evolves into a book (characters getting killed off, or not, as the case might be), which leads me to believe (perhaps wrongly) that you write the outline before getting down to the nitty-gritty of a, b, c and d?
Nope, no real outline to start with. Just some major plot points, and some idea of where I’m going to end up. However, as I get deeper into the book, I will sometimes pause between chapters and make notes to myself about what needs to happen next, who has got the upper hand and how power is going to be moved to the other side.
I keep track of tension/power issues in a very concrete way as I write, which is as close as I come to an outline.
2. Also, wouldn’t you have to have the characters ready and waiting to jump into the plot if you work in this manner? Of course, in the Wilderness series you did just that (I gather), but what about minor characters? Do you just thread them in as you go along, or do you develop them first, in order to make them fit better into the pattern?
I don’t plan secondary characters in any conscious way ahead of time. Some characters just get threaded in as things go along, because they won’t be around long. They show up, we have a little conference and I make some decisions about how important they are going to be, and how much print space they need. This is where my love of Dickens shows the most, I think, in that I have a hard time dismissing secondary characters without at least a little attention. Readers who are put off by my long list of characters would probably run off in horror if I included all the secondary and teriary people who float in and out.
Characters who are going to be fairly pivotal, even for a short period of time, I will stop and think about in more detail. For example, there’s a trio of women in Queen of Swords, a middle aged daughter, her mother, her mother’s servant, who are going to be quite important to various plot developments. As I was thinking about them in relationship to each other and to the rest of the characters I realized I was going to have to stop and make notes, which I did. I constructed a brief backstory and timeline, which I’ll refer to now and then when they come into the story.