Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So, A Little More on On Writing and Not Plotting

I'm beginning to think the really great writers are confident enough (insane/wonky/free enough) to just sit down, with as King says, a "situation", and let the story rumble.

I remember describing King years and years ago to others. I said that the amazing thing about his books is how he took a normal, everyday event/occurance/place and twisted it.

King talks about not plotting: "I'd suggest that what works for me may work equally well for you. If you are enslaved to (or intimidated by) the tiresome tyranny of the outline and the notebook filled with "Character Notes," it may liberate you. At the very least, it will turn your mind to something more interesting than Developing the Plot."

And: "Plot is, I think, the good writer's last resort and the dullard's first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored."

And: "Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest."

My friend and critique partner, Susan Lohrer, sent this quote today from Dean Koontz: "I give my characters free will. The story is never outlined. They go where they want — and surprise me. When they speak, I don't force them to feed information to the reader and advance the story. If they want to digress, I let them. If each is a vivid individual, his or her dialogue will be unique. And often in the digressions, we learn about them and discover new dimensions in the story. When a character says something funny, I laugh out loud because it’s as if I'm hearing it, not writing it."

King's exhortations to be honest and truthful (and it seems Koontz would agree with him) are keys, I think, to allowing a situation to grow into a full-fledged, nail-biting story filled with people we can, on some level, identify with. I'm willing to give this situational writing a try and see what happens.

It's that basic "don't write for the Legion of Decency" hurdle that's a little scary to jump over. At least it is if you've always been the Good Girl.

I loved what he said about description: "Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's."

Writers, readers and movie-goers were all saddened today to learn of the death of Michael Crichton. Our loss of his imagination and energy will leave a hole on earth.

Still plugging (albeit slowly) along in Nano. Trying to swing a little looser ala King and Koontz.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Great post, Peg. I hadn't heard that particular quote by Koontz (giving characters free will), but I'm fascinated by his writing methods--gives me hope! :-). I listened to his podcasts which are laugh-out-loud funny. Too bad he hasn't done more--he must be on deadline.

  2. When I write, I usually have a loose outline so that I don't hit a major writer's block. However, that outline constantly changes and grows as I learn about my characters. My NaNo MC just informed me she wanted to be a writer just like me! lol...

  3. Hey Rich, don't you just love Koontz? So sad about Trixie . . .

    And Ralene, if by "loose outline" you mean "general idea of direction" I think I like that concept. I'm too anal to have an outline and not use it.