One of my favourite parts about winging it as a writer is the feeling I get every time I sit down behind my laptop. With a sense of excitement, I follow my characters. Just like a reader, I don’t know what will happen next. I’m sure it has both downsides and upsides to write that way, but I’ve tried plotting and planning. It will look pretty and awesome, but then one of my characters does something unplanned and it’s always for the best. I can’t help but follow them and see what happens.
It doesn’t mean that you can just go at it. At least, that’s not what works for me. Some writers thrive when they do writing sprints in the dark. Just randomly writing pushes their subconscious. With me, my subconscious gets shoved to the ground and sat on. One of the things I need before I start is a good sense of my characters. I start with an idea of their appearance and what they look like, as well as their name. It’s like opening the door to your character and simply observing them. Once you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time to let them in.
Next, I need to figure out what their deal is. By that, I mean their desires and fears. Both the fears and desires on the surface and the ones they carry in their hearts. Knowing that makes it so much easier to mess with them. I turn into a shrink and question them, see how they react. Pour them a tea, coffee, or whisky, and take a peek into their mannerisms, history, hopes and fears. Have fun and try not to get hit by a chair. It almost happened to me once, not pleasant.
Before I start writing I also need to have some idea of the obstacles, but sometimes they also drift to the surface while I’m writing. Most of my novels involve crimes and how to solve them, so an obstacle that usually pops up is one where the main character has a personal stake. Either a loved one could be in danger or she herself. A novel has several obstacles scattered throughout the pages, so feel free to know all of them before you write. Either way, it’s a definite plus if you link the obstacles with the theme(s).
With those ingredients it’s very easy to follow your characters around, not to mention interesting. Sometimes there are more things that I find out about my characters as I write. So, even though these steps are handy, they’re not always necessary. It depends on the story and the characters. The main thing for the first draft is to have fun and get those words on paper. I guess I do plot my novel, I just do it by writing my first draft.