Parking Lots and Novel Planning

I’ve never been very good at novel planning.  Or, put rather more precisely, I’ve never been very good at novel planning that did me much good.  I can think about character details, even think about where I would like the story to go, but as soon as I start writing the story has a mind of its own.

And I think I know part of why.

To me, trying to get to know my characters by describing them is like choosing a car by test driving it in a parking lot.  You can learn a little about it that way, but it’s nothing like hitting the highway and seeing how it handles at 70, or going down the back roads and seeing how it handles the bumps.

In other words, I need to see my characters when they’re doing, not just posing for a portrait.

So this year I’m going to try something new.  My “planning” will actually be me writing scenes with my characters in them.  Not scenes in my NaNo stories, just little shorts, but things will happen.  They will have to react and act.  I think it will be much better for getting to know them before the story begins.

It won’t work as well for my setting (though I could always have a short at the important places – it’s just not good for establishing history), and it will do nothing for my plot, but I also don’t want it to.  I don’t want my book to be plotted.  I’m exploring a novel wilderness here, not taking a train across the countryside.

You could even say that I’m off-roading, with my characters as the vehicle.  I think it fits rather well.

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