I admire people who outline books. I understand the principles of design. It’s good to define the structure of the architecture first before implementing the build. It’s the same with programming. Often you don’t solve a problem just by diving in and trying to code the solution. You have to take a step back and think.
Except when you don’t, either because you don’t have the time or the patience.
I’ve been having this recurring worry with The Sky Below. I’ve promised a 25-26 chapter story with an ending, split between chapters about four characters who each will maybe get about 15,000 words. That’s actually not a whole lot of space for a full character arc. I have to introduce my characters, throw them in a calamity, and get them out of it or at least a significant distance down the road in maybe 30-35 pages.
That means I don’t want to be retreading ground with one character that I’ve covered with another. But I also don’t want to miss a character’s specific reaction to an event, even if we’ve seen that event with another character. Then there’s the issue of how much time passes for each character when they’re off-screen. Are all of these things happening at the same time, or at different rates
And how do I solve these issues?
I know where the ending is. I know a few of the specific obstacles I want to throw in the way of my characters. But mostly I just know my characters well and try to let them guide their own actions. Each has a value associated with them, a theme to their story, and a way to deal with the circumstances in front of them (which are frankly ridiculous).
I’ll just get this out of the way right now. There are going to be a lot of physics types who are going to want to know the specifics of a world in which gravity goes out toward the atmosphere, and not down toward the center of the Earth. And I’m doing my best to present a somewhat realistic portrayal of those circumstances. But that being said, Armageddon was a pretty good movie right? (despite being riddled with scientific inaccuracies). This is a story proceeding from an already ridiculous premise. There is going to be poetic license. And some specifics will be gut (though I’ll admit to a little bit of planning of the mechanics ahead of time, particularly the rules of what can and cannot happen).
If it helps Cleveland is in a giant snow-globe and someone is holding it upside-down.
Gut gets you to places outlines never will. Already researching these buildings and this city has given me ideas I would never have had at the beginning. And the revision process for each chapter reigns in some of the crazy so that we can actually get somewhere with each installment.
All I ask is that you have faith. I may only know a couple of steps down the road right now, but we’ll find the ending, and it’ll be worth the journey.
I might even write a few alternate endings just for fun for all you physics nuts.
One response to “Okay, so I’m a pantser”
I’m with you! I usually have a vague plan in my mind regarding my book (plot, characters, setting etc). But I’ve discovered that the plan gets shattered by my instincts, my last-minute decisions, the decisions the characters make for themselves (yes, they do that!) so, in the end, I’ve decided that planning, organizing and outlining is not for me. Oh well, I’ll live with that! 🙂