04 December 2009

Be Prepared for Anything

Hey, Friends!

This week we're talking about character development using the analogy of my adventures puppy sitting. On Monday we talked about how our characters are their own "people" and Wednesday, about how important it is to look for the little moments and find the human side of our antagonists. Today we're going to talk about the most important rule: be prepared for anything.

I never knew what Roi was going to do. If he trotted off, tail bouncing happily, I only assumed that he was plotting something. If he disappeared for more than a few seconds, I had to find him. Though I could guess where he was (and the tell-tale bell sound of his collar usually led me right to him), I found him in some interesting predicaments. I had to block the stairs and the dining room, close off another room, and make sure he was far away whenever I opened the dishwasher. I had to plan my trips to the kitchen because he'd wake up from his nap at the sound of the ice maker and follow me, ready to get into more trouble as soon as he settled down and I went for a snack! I had to know that he would want to go outside as soon as the show I waited for all day was on tv, right after a commercial break ended--and it had to be right then--even if it was freezing and pouring rain. I had to be on the look out for toys and his own tiny body, to move the toilet paper (very tempting to play with) up high, and spray "Fooey" on every chewable surface. Of course, it turned out that he liked the stuff and no matter how careful I was, I ended up tasting it instead.

The same is true with our characters. Like we talked about on Monday, they are letting us into their stories. And if we truly let go and let them show us their lives, we need to be prepared for whatever they bring us--whether it's celebration, joy, chaos, or silence. In life, I'm highly detailed, a planner. I don't like chaos or spontenaity. It's so ironic because as a writer, I'm more of a panster than a plotter. I usually get one word or image for a chapter (this is only after I'm a few chapters into the actual story) and that's it. I've learned the hard way that even with that limited plan, my characters always take the story in another direction. And if I spend all of my time fretting over that plan, I'll miss what they are doing. Instead I just have to strap myself in and hold on. Things that are set for the end of the story happen in the middle, one conversation changes the entire course of the plot, and one phrase creates a new theme. I could fight it, but honestly, I always love the finished products so much more. The "accidents" make it all the more "real" to me.

I realize that this might be a bit easier to do if you're a panster. What are you tips, you plotters out there? How do you handle it when your characters change it up?

Below, Roi with a great big smile:

By the way, check out one of the last comments from Wednesday's post. Somehow our little furry antagonist figured out how to find my blog. Now, who taught him how to type?

Oh no... Roi's discovered Facebook. Looks like he's changing it up again!


  1. I'm a pantser so I know what you mean about things changing. I love when I have lightbulb moments and take the story in a fresh direction.
    btw, puppies sound incredibly similar to toddlers. LOL I go through that every day with mine.

  2. "I don't like chaos or spontenaity. It's so ironic because as a writer, I'm more of a panster than a plotter"--I'm the same way.

    I cannot tell you how many times unintentional things just "happened" as I wrote. I gave up plotting loooooong ago. Maybe because I'm not all that spontaneous in life, I live vicariously through my unruly characters.

  3. I'm a psychotic plotter...so how do I let my characters change it up? Usually, my outline is where I am surprised. I'll have it in my head that we're going one way, but my characters change up. But like I said, this usually happens in the outline stage. And I outline every single scene with GMC.

    Granted, sometimes scenes change or sometimes new ones pop up. Usually because a character I didn't expect wants more stage time or wants to make a point I hadn't previously c onsidered.

  4. I'm a panster, so this totally hits home. My books always end up much different than my original vision... in a GOOD way!

    But I've also had to tell characters "No" they can't do that sometimes... because at times they take me to places that are outside the story scope, or don't add to the main story but detract from it.

    It's a balancing act...

  5. I tried being a plotter before. I didn't work. My characters like to have too much control. I simply have to go with them and where they take the story and hope I get to have some input along the way.

  6. I'm a panster so I have no help to offer for the plotters. But I suspect the best plotters leave room for a surprise or two.

  7. The more things change, the faster things change, the less I want them to. I think I adapt pretty well to change--but I guess I think I leave my world open to spontaneity because it'll happen whether I leave my world open to it or not...makes life easier.

  8. Did I say this before? He's just ADORABLE.

    I love the comparisons. You've taught us much!

  9. Oh, I am really going to miss all the cute puppy pictures once you don't have them anymore!

    I'm going to have to say I'm a plotter now. I've been easing into it for several years and then once NaNo hit, I decided that plotting was my thing. But I still keep an open mind and leave room for my characters to make choices I might not have foreseen. As far as surprising me...I think every time one of my characters has done that I've realized that it's TOO out of character for them and I need to rework the scene.

  10. Thank you, Janna! This was fun to write!

    That's a good idea, Rick and Monique. I'm better at adapting to it now because of missions (it's nothing but spontenaity), but I still love an organized schedule. It makes me really happy!

    So true, Amy! Most of the time they have so much to say they don't need me to speak at all!

  11. I'm sure Roi would be your friend on Facebook, Cindy! He loves meeting new people. :0) That's a good point--especially if you've plotted. Often my surprise stuff comes because I don't know what's about to happen. I guess we reach the same results with different routes.

    You're so right, Krista! It's definitely a balancing act. I sometimes get to the end and have to cut things that didn't work. But I think my characters are still thankful I let them try things. :0)

    Katie, you fascinate me. We'd have fun walking through the process together just because it's so different for the both of us. That's great advice. Maybe one day I can plot a novel instead of go along with it. :0)

    That's it, Rebecca! It's a chance to be completely different. I like living vicariously through them!

    Ha! They probably are, Jessica. Adorable and a lot of work--but completely worth it!

    Have a great weekend, everyone!

  12. Very determined little pup there! :O)

  13. I'm a pantster so surprises don't bother me. In fact, I love them. That sneaky little dog.

  14. I'm a pantser, and have difficulty even naming my characters ahead of time. They usually show up and introduce themselves.

    I've just met Kendra, who will star in book three. I still don't know her last name or her occupation. I've been researching various jobs for her to determine whether she'll be a doctor, lawyer, or indian chief. She hasn't weighed in on the issue yet.

    Great post! Puppies, kitties, and kids get into a lot of mischief. It's a good thing God made them so cute!

    Susan :)

  15. Ha! I love it when characters just inform us of the important stuff like their names and life stories. :0) Too true, Susan Reinhardt!

    In writing, I love them too, Susan Mills!

    He's definitely that, Diane!

  16. I'm still longing for Roi to come visit me, heehee. My little pup would thoroughly enjoy his company! Have a blessed day, Kristen :)

  17. Great post!

    Be prepared...by always asking "what if?". Like a Boy Scout who thinks of all the different scenarios he might face to prepare for them--I think we're the same way by asking, "What if he MISSED that train?" "What if she WASN'T a pet sitter, but a surgeon?" "What if he was murdered instead of this person?" It makes it so much fun to have so many different directions to go in!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  18. I agree, Elizabeth! It's like those stories in Clubhouse magazine when I was a kid. You got to choose which direction you went, which determined the track of the entire story. I loved those!

    Haha, Roxy!

  19. Your dog is so cute. I just want to hug him.

    My characters definitely reveal themselves as I'm writing, but I know who they are before I start writing.

    Have a great weekend!

  20. You keep distracting my thoughts with that super cute puppy! Who can think about writing when his precious face is right there staring back at you ;)

  21. Not me! And if he were actually looking at you, T.Anne you wouldn't be able to get any work done because of all of his antics. :0)

    Thanks, Jill! He belongs to a friend of mine. I have a poodle. But I do love their puppy! I try to get to know my characters really well before the writing begins, but they don't always let that happen.

  22. That is the cutest little dog, but he sure looks like a chewer to me. I often find my plot changing when a new character appears. I'll be in the middle of the scene and suddenly a new person walks in like he owns the scene. Great post. Have a wonderful weekend.

  23. Hello fellow panster! I learned a long time ago that if I plot too detailed, my characters think it's fun to pull wild and crazy antics out of hats and push me down rabbit holes. It can be fun, but maddening. Now I just give them reigns in the beginning :)

    Oh, and I only love chaos if I'm the one causing it :)


  24. I think you're just making up stories about Roi! How could any creature SO cute be anything but absolutely angelic!!!! ;-) Don't worry, I completely can relate to what you went through! Our dog isn't that old. I still remember those demanding puppy days!

  25. Me too, Jack! Me too!

    Ha, Jody! I'd forgotten them--at least the "painful" parts until recently. Still, it's all worth it for one lick or the chance to rub a pudgy belly. :0)

    Thanks, Tara! You too!

  26. I'm a little of both. I reacently had to go back and redo chapters of my current WIP as it went totally a different direction as I had plotted. But better to do it now than later!

  27. Great blog...again. Glad I could teach you a thing or two. - Roi

  28. Wait! ...and thank YOU for all you taught me.

  29. BAHAHAHAHA! Thanks for coming by, Roi! And you're welcome! I'm sure your parents are thrilled about two things in particular... :0)

    Definitely, Terri Tiffany! Going back and rewriting is worth it, but so time consuming. That will really help in the long run!

  30. Love Roi's comment but mostly love Roi. He looks like a furry stuffed bear.
    I'm finding Kristen, when I read your blog (which I loooove) I need a pen and paper. Your stuff is pushing me forward, helping me to get into the character's head and run with her. I never took a writing class but your blog is teaching me sooo much and your analogies are the absolute best. Have a great weekend to both you and Roi. Sarah

  31. Not to sound ridiculous, but here goes, my characters are real people. They crawl inside my head and live there until I tell their story.

  32. That's not ridiculous at all! My characters are very real as well.

    Thank you so much, Sarah! I'm so thankful. I feel like I learn more and more everyday so anything I can share to help anyone is a gift. I'm so glad these analogies work!