Disciplining Your Daydreams, Part II

My last post yielded more thoughts…Here’s my version of a quickie post because I’m digging the idea of a nap about now (didn’t sleep well last night).

The debate between just-writing versus outlining-first is a funny one. Many novelists advocate one method over the other. (I’m a ‘tweener, a mix of both.) I get the sense that “commercial” novelists tend to outline and “literary” novelists, not so much.

I don’t advocate outlining over letting the words flow (or vice versa). I’m uncomfortable with rules that seem to associate themselves with labels such as “commercial” and “literary.” However, I’ll always recommend character analysis to anyone seeking my opinion on the matter.

Character analyses are good for everyone! Even, I maintain, for novelists who don’t care much about character development. I propose that knowing your characters backwards and forwards before you start writing can help you pinpoint your story, generate plot ideas, and keep your characters real.

Knowing my characters means I know what they wouldn’t do, which is as important in my writing world as knowing what they would do. Characters ought to act in accordance with their worldviews, personalities, backgrounds and so on. Knowing all that stuff automatically helps me discipline away those oh-so-brilliant (but actually wayward) daydreams for the story.

For character development and analyses, check out Elizabeth George’s Write Away. I found her discussion illuminating.