Many successful authors of creative fiction recommend outlines of plot and characters before beginning the story. It keeps a writer on track with the storyline and fleshing out the details of a story’s cast of characters. For many writers, already knowing the details of their characters, like description, history, associations, and motivations within the story can enrich their writing, giving depth and atmosphere to the story.
I highly recommend outlining as a writing tool, but
this technique just doesn't work for me. The fastest way to kill a
story idea of mine is to work out the details of plot and characters in
outline form first. They die a swift and horrible death in such a dry,
analytical environment. By the time I get to the first page of writing,
there is no magic left and I have to let it go.
However, I don’t
begin from scratch, sitting down to a blank page with not a thought in
my head on plot or character. I make general sketches and keep notes as
the story progresses to remember crucial details and keep a logical
progression of the story. But the magic in writing is the unexpected
evolution of both plot and character. In my writing world, this
evolution is driven by the characters.
I can’t count the number
of times I’ve begun to write with a storyline in mind and had it go in a
completely different, unexpected direction due to the unfolding
dialogue and actions of the characters. I’m the creator, so I’m supposed
to know where these things come from, but this is why I call it magic.
The twists and turns take me as much by surprise as they do my readers.
It fascinates me to watch the story unfold beneath my fingers, to see
the characters grow and change before my eyes. They begin as two
dimensional figures and blossom into beings so real I can almost believe
they are alive.
Some might argue this makes my story
two-dimensional at the beginning, but the beauty of editing is I can go
back and flesh out the characters and storyline, or hack and slash as
necessary. This writing method affords me all the creative joy without
the life-sucking, mind-numbing effects of the formal outline. I can’t
recommend this method to every writer, though. What works for me might
drive another author to drink or ruin their writing experience. To each
their own. As for me, I’m into evolution.