It’s Life, According to Plan

Nothing goes according to plan. I think we’ve all had a book we were reading, where things went too smoothly, and you either went ‘meh.’ Or you started side-eyeing the plot wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. I mean – I also do this in real life. When things are going great, I start wondering what’s going to break. Usually the most expensive thing, but sometimes just the most inconvenient. And for variety, sometimes it’s me. I break. And then it gets interesting.

As a pantser, it doesn’t feel completely disingenuous to write about a character’s plans. Even though I’m fairly sure that like my own, they are going to take a wrong turn, more than likely before much if any of it is executed. And unlike in my life, the characters don’t break themselves. Often. Well, not usually. Mostly, there’s drama and conflict. In my life? It’s stress and lack of sleep, and honestly that’s not exciting to write about. No more than a description of the character’s poor choices in food and hydration leading to them being miserable and achy would be.

When I’m writing, I usually have a plan for the story in my mind. So I write out the character’s plan, naively thinking that I’ll be able to slip in some twists and turns… and then, what comes out is not what I planned. Usually, it’s better. Sometimes, it’s not. That’s when editing has to happen, and I don’t like editing.

writing is full of surprises, which is part of why I enjoy it so much. Like reading, at least when I’m reading a good book, I can’t quite see what’s around the corner. Until I read it, or write it. Not always the case – there are any number of books where I could see the denouement coming a mile away.

Funny how I would love to have that in real life, but in a book it makes for boring, flat, lifeless and probably going to wander off in search of a better story.

And on that note, if you are looking for a good read, check out this book giveaway. I’m honored to be taking part in this, where you can enter for a chance to win five signed books. Real paper books where you can sniff the paper and ink… DJ Butler, Sarah Hoyt, Rob Howell, Jagi Lamplighter, and myself. Want more than one chance? Read the instructions carefully, because in this one, you have several chances if you play your cards right!

12 comments

  1. =Signed= you say? Well!

    “So I write out the character’s plan, naively thinking that I’ll be able to slip in some twists and turns… and then, what comes out is not what I planned.”

    Ha…. I never have that much. I am as surprised as my MC when his plans go awry… he tends to do better than average at the esoteric and off-the-wall that no one else is likely to anticipate, but normal everyday planning to get out of a jam? pretty much guaranteed to be frying pan to fire. Even he once griped that “my real problem is that I’ve never learned to think things through.”

    * Problem: Escape on foot from stampeding herd of buffalo.
    * Hero is next seen danging from a handful of roots as the herd thunders over the lip of the cliff above and crashes to their deaths a thousand feet below.
    * Real problem: How do I get down from this cliff?
    * Goose mode: How long before these roots tear out??

    Yeah, that’s how his life goes, except with starships.

    Now he’s complaining that he’s never once had to escape a thundering herd of anything, and I’m like… oh yeah?

    * Problem: escape the assassins cult he’s just pissed off.
    * Solution: steal an airskip and fly away.
    * Poorly considered secondary solution: misdirect pursuit via an obvious crash-landing out in the sticks, and subsequently he has to hoof it two hours to the spaceport.
    * When he gets there, his bodyguard (separated earlier) ungraciously points out that he could have just parked in the adjacent boneyard, as one derelict airskip looks much like the next, and since he wasted two hours being clever, the baddies had time to catch up, and here they come over the horizon. Ooops.

      1. Other way around. Author has great idea for how story will go. Characters: “You want me to do what? Oh no, no. I’m going to become a major character and force you to completely rewrite the MC’s entire backstory. Thppppth.”

        1. It’s a terrible thing when characters refuse to comply with the plot.

          It’s an even more terrible thing when you realize they’re right, and you were about to break the story.

          If I’m arguing with a character, whom I created, am I arguing with myself? Or not?

          1. What’s that filk song where the character goes up in a tree and refuses to come down til the author sees sense??

          2. So all the depictions of G*d as having hair are wrong as we’re causing Him to tear His hair out – and have been since Creation? }:o)

        2. Or… Character Plans, Author quirks an eyebrow and says, “And how’s THAT supposed to work?” and meanwhile some other character is up to no good over in the bushes…. what do you mean, that’s the missing backstory?? Give me that!!

          Fact is they do whatever they like. I have no control over these people at all, tho they’ve become leery of trying to pull a fast one… always gets me to more closely examine what they did while I wasn’t looking, and that never goes well for them. 😛

  2. “Man plans, God laughs.”

    So many times, in just the first novel when this happened to Adelaide and it’s all improvisation and blood and fire from there. Even the novels have been improvised at times, at least one plot line had to be cranked in because I needed to do something in that space.

    I swear, the next novel is going to have an actual, honest-to-God outline rather than the whole “checkpoint” system that I’ve been using. Has to-A Roman Solist is going to bounce between a few viewpoint characters and I need to keep everything straight.

    Fingers crossed…

  3. I’m not “social”… but I do have a Twitter account, so I did get the word out there. Good luck.

Comments are closed.