Story Development Process

In debates between writers who outline voraciously and writers who "just write" and think that outlining kills the energy of a project, I usually come down on the side of the outliners. If I make an outline, even if I don't hold myself to it closely, I tend to be more focused and run into fewer snags than if I fly by the seat of my pants. Except...

Except that I'm horrible about outlining characters and to a lesser extent settings. I swear if any of my stories were ever performed on stage, it'd be a clear stage except for a background mural vaguely reminiscent of space. And while I tend to have a pretty clear idea of what's going on in terms of "what happens next" I fly by the seat of my pants every inch of the way in terms of characters.

The good news is that I'm pretty good with character representation and dialogue (that psychology major paying off after all?), so I can fake it well. The bad news is that I don't often don't realize that I don't have a clue what I'm doing until embarrassingly late in the game.

As I was thinking about this last weekend (and forcing myself to write character sketches,) I realized a few things:

1. I suspect that most people who "fly by the seat of their pants" probably do some character development, and that just as I have given myself personal dispensation for not making notes about characters, I think that they probably do the same for making these notes. It's interesting at any rate. 2. It's really helpful to make notes about characters to help keep them consistent over the course of a writing project. Duh. 3. My tendency is to make characters too realistic. Characters in stories need to be in great danger, they need to have problems that they can't think their way out of, and they need to be faced with situations that might radically change the face their world, if not the world itself. The truth is that most of our problems are things we can think our way out of (that would be the downside of the psychology major) and we pass through our lives with only routine levels of danger, and almost all of the situations we experience are alone unlikely to change the world.

Anyway I have some characters to go sketch out...

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