When I first looked at this question I immediately thought that I was a ‘Pants’ kind of guy! I’ve told you elsewhere about how ‘The Final Straw’ was written, so for any new readers I’ll just précis my experience and leave them to search out the full story if they have a mind to.
I had a few rough ideas for a novel, a middle and end for sure, but not much of a beginning. I hadn’t thought about how to get my characters to the tipping point that led on to the murder and mayhem I had envisaged for the end of my story. I knew my main character was an ‘oddball’, someone who didn’t fit into society in any meaningful way, so I typed ‘Colin Bailey was invisible.’ as my opening sentence.
The floodgates opened and the rest of the book followed; no outline for how the plot line might progress, the original female lead character was sidelined. She still appeared in the book and then disappeared as I had imagined in my fledgling rough ‘outline’ but the actual ending was totally different to the possible finale I had jotted down in my half a page of notes.
I loved the freedom it gave me. Even though it was my first attempt at a novel I knew that my characters would take me wherever they wanted to go and my job was to go wherever that led me.
When I came to write ‘Unfinished Business’ I had the beginning and some of the early events already of course because it followed on from the first book. Several of the characters returned, ten years older and there were loose ends that Colin Bailey needed to sort out. So on this occasion I prepared a FULL page of notes for my outline and although I wrote the chapters that followed with the same freedom, I did have signposts along the way that steered me towards the final confrontation between good and evil that I had sketched out in my notes.
So I appear to use a little of both options then? I looked at my twelve short stories last night to try to remember how I had tackled those. ‘A Sting In The Tale’ was a bit of fun really, it started as an exercise to introduce myself to members of a local writing group. I wrote a couple of stories with an unexpected twist at the end because poetry wasn’t really my bag! Guess what I realised when I trawled through the book? There were some that I can recognise now are formulaic and it’s easy to spot what the ‘Sting’ will be and others are more ‘free form’ and might keep the reader guessing until the final page.
Unconsciously, I seem to use both options in my writing; a ‘loose outline’ and a ‘seat of your pants’ option!
The only thing I can be certain of is that I have never had a complete plan and never would! It would restrict me too much; I want to have the freedom to be character driven and go where they take me, that way if I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next and how it’s all going to end, then nor are my readers! That’s got to be an author’s ultimate aim surely?
A collection of twelve short stories with an unexpected twist at the end. There are love stories, ghost stories and tales of revenge, all sprinkled with a touch of humour. In fact there’s something for everyone, young or old. There are characters and situations you will readily recognise, but will you identify ‘the sting in the tale’ before you turn the final page?
Genre - Short Story Collection
Rating – PG
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