Tag Archive | characters

Lessons Learned While Writing: Two Kinds of Writers

Before I started writing my first novel I had heard about people outlining their books but had no concept of what that could possibly be about. I just started writing…and kept writing…and 21 days later had a book that was way too long!

When I write a non-fiction piece of work, whether a talk I’m going to give or a book, I do outline. But I find an outline restrictive to the creative process for me as a writer when I’m writing fiction. People who outline struggle to believe there’s another acceptable way to write.

So I learned there are two kinds of writers. Actually—there are two extremes. Pantsters who have no idea what there are doing and wing it and planners or plotters who outline their books, do in-depth character interviews, understand the motivations, story arc, and plot points.

The funny things is, I do some of that now, but not as much as a pure plotter would do. I’m co-authoring a series with a plotter. The first book we did together was torture for me trying to make sense of this story arc and the characters and there were timing issues that I needed to fix. That was primarily because it was handed to me to start the rough draft. I did manage it and the story is wonderful, but it was challenging on so many levels.

My plotter friend, DeeDee, and I now do much of that work together. She comes up with the main stuff and we wrestle through plot points and we talk it out quite often. I give her stuff to write as well so I’m not the only one putting original words on the page. For me getting to know the characters well has been huge for this. Plot points are suggestions and sometimes I come up with fun surprises. I figure if she reads it kind of knowing what is going to happen and I can surprise her, then I can surprise the reader too! It’s a balance that so far seems to be working for us.

Either end of the spectrum is fine. Pantsters want some love too and maybe some of that is personality or part of the unique creative soul some of us have, but it’s OK and no way of writing is right or wrong as long as the writer, in the end, produces a great piece of fiction.

If you are a writer, where do you fall on the pantster-plotter spectrum?

Lessons Learned while Writing: Omniscience vs Free Will

This might seem like an odd thing to learn about while writing fiction but hang in there with me. My master’s degree is from a seminary. I have taught theology and studied the attributes of God. His omniscience vs out free will is an issue people have been arguing about for centuries.

I don’t really have the answer to that debate although I fully believe in both. God knows everything which should terrify us. EVERYTHING. Every thought and intention of our hearts, our motives, the words we don’t say out loud but think. Our wants and desires. Our deepest fears. Amazingly enough, He wanted His human creation, dependant upon Him for every breath we take and every beat of our hearts, to have the freedom to accept or reject Him.

He didn’t want puppets to worship Him. He wanted people willing to give their all to Him because He called and we chose to respond.

Now we could debate about how could God, who knows everything we will do, give us free will since He already knows we will do it?

I can’t answer that. Some thoughts are far too lofty for this mere mortal.

But I came to a place of peace with this because of my writing. It is not a perfect illustration because again, as a writer, I’m a mortal, not eternal like God is.

When I write my story I have an idea of what the journey for my characters will be like and who they are. (Remember, these people don’t really exist even if they seem to in my mind).  I have a general concept of my ending. Since I write happily-ever-afters it will be a happy ending. There will be love. Maybe a kiss or a wedding, and regardless of where my characters start on their journey, they will have grown emotionally and spiritually. Because I’m human and haven’t written the book yet, I’m not sure of all the details of those journeys to love and greater wholeness.

Whether a writer is a panster (write by the seat of his/her pants) or a plotter, planning out general points of the story’s plot, our characters sometimes surprise us. I can have in-depth interviews with these imaginary people but they sometimes throw me for a loop with a memory, or an issue I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes they make a choice I didn’t anticipate. However, I get them to my desired end for the book.

Once the book is written I am fully aware of their choices and decisions and the precise ending.

God knows my beginning and my end. He has a plan and a purpose for my life but I still make choices. Unlike me as an author, God is never surprised because He’s already read the end of my story. He read it before I was even born. That doesn’t mean He dictated my path.

I’m not even sure if that fully makes sense to you, but it does to me. I can’t understand just how it really works with an all-knowing, sovereign Lord, only that I can listen for His voice and maybe I’ll make mistakes, but He will get me to my desired end and use me to fulfill His purpose here on earth. Maybe I’ll sport some bruises from my failures, but He will never stop loving me on the journey through my story.

And He is also the One who leads me as I write. How else can my characters surprise me if my God-given imagination didn’t let that happen? An imagination designed for me combined with my history and past experiences to create a story out of nothing because I am an image-bearer of the Creator Himself.

Maybe this is too lofty, but I’ve found peace in not understanding how it all happens. It is a holy mystery beyond my ability to grasp but His omniscience doesn’t negate free will and there is wonderful security in that truth.