I spend about 6 weeks outlining my books before I write them so I know almost everything that is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and I have identified all of the major characters before I start. I don’t actually outline the last few chapters of the book, because I do know things can vary somewhat during the writing process, but I certainly know how it’s going to end before I start writing.
It’s the Surprise Character that’s really a lot of fun for me. This is the character that was NOT included in the outline but jumps into the story almost on their own and seems to write their own part. This happened to me with “Sneaker” in The Maze at Four Chimneys and also with Jonas Siefert and his group in The Peacock Prophecy.
With Sneaker, I was thinking about a friend of mine who used to walk a trap line every night after school. Sneaker started out as just a quirky minor character but quickly evolved into a major entity in the story.
When I was writing The Peacock Prophecy, I was worried that I wasn’t going to end up with enough pages. I wanted another back story that could add some pages. I had no idea that Jonas would end up being the focus of many of his own chapters.
Working with the outline, I sit and write, following the outline the whole time. I flesh out the outline ideas with dialog, descripton, and emotion. When a Surprise Character enters the picture, it makes it more exciting because I have no idea where the story will go. I know it has to fit the outline someway, but these characters seem to have minds of their own. They literally write their own passages. It’s fun to stand back and see what’s going to happen.
I’m on page 50 of my latest book. Unlike my other 3, most of the action in this book takes place in Vero Beach, Fl, not Upper Michigan. There is a Northern Michigan component, actually a throwback to The Maze at Four Chimneys, but so far….no Surprise Character. I’m hoping one shows up soon!