I really believe that the most fun you can have writing is when you are creating. It’s a great feeling to watch characters appear at your fingertips and seemingly act independently as the world around them starts throwing obstacles their way.
But it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes (far too often for me, unfortunately) those interesting characters and worlds end up stuck in a setting instead of a story. In other words, you can create all the characters and build all worlds you want, but if you don’t have a well-developed plot, you’ve got nothing. And unlike popular TV shows from the 90’s, a story about nothing just won’t sell.
And to make things even more inconvenient, I hate plotting and I have a lot of trouble outlining. I hate knowing what’s going to happen before I start writing. For me to stay interested in my own work, I need to experience it “live”. I don’t read spoilers for pro-wrestling or movies, and for that same reason, I don’t like spoilers in my own fiction.
A lot of writers aren’t like that though. There are so many books and sites out there giving plotting strategies involving fill-in-the-blank scripts or filling up your wall with note cards. That’s fine if it works for you, but for me, if I try that, I find myself writing for the outline. Instead of telling a story, I feel like I’m suddenly writing a reverse book report. It goes from being What can happen? to What must happen?
So, you ask, if you don’t have a plot before hand, what do you do? The answer to that might make me seem crazy, but here’s what I do: I write the same way I watch a movie. When I’m watching a movie, as soon as I start caring about the characters, I start running through different scenarios in my head. What happens if this character does that? How will she get out of this?
Now that I think about it, there’s a better example with pro-wrestling. When I watch that, I’m constantly thinking about what the writers (Crap! Hope I didn’t ruin that for anyone!) should do to make the storylines better and more interesting. Would it make sense for that character (wrestler) to turn evil? Or what could this character (wrestler) do or say to be more interesting and get more TV time?
Anyhow, that’s how I write. If I care about the characters and setting, I start automatically brainstorming for ways to create the most interesting outcome. If I don’t care about the characters, I put the story away for a while, in the same way I’d turn off a movie that couldn’t keep me interested.
When the ending does come to me, the story might be a few pages in, or it might be near a good ending point. Either way, I can go back and rewrite whatever I need to to make the rest of the story build to it.
And every time I write that way, I come up with a better ending than if I go in knowing what’s going to happen beforehand.