I don’t plan stories. I don’t even figure out what motivates a character until it matters. These are terrible writing methods, but they are how I write. Maybe if I planned more I wouldn’t get writer’s block that lasts a whole year. Still I think that there is some value in spontaneous writing. Zelazny says that a writer should plot out their story but always be willing to follow their demon:
“Occasionally, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something, which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant -you just don’t know which. You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you’d mapped out for yourself. Or you can trust your personal demon who delivered that crazy idea in the first place.
Trust your demon.”
I tend to do that but without the planning beforehand. As a result my demon often leads me into a lot of dead ends before he coughs up anything brilliant. The last story I wrote (the as yet unpublished “Sorceress of the Ebon Flame”) took me six months to finish and it was the most ambitious short story I’ve attempted to date. I had done a small amount of planning. I had the main relationships and goals mapped out, but I still didn’t realize until very late in the process who the true villain was. Also at one point I had killed so many characters that I was running out of people to dialogue with each other. I tend to emphasize scenes that are just conversations (somewhat like Asimov’s Foundation series, but with more blood and dark sorcery) so this was a real problem for awhile.
On a side note, who likes dialogue attributions? “He said.” and “It said” and “She said.”, that sort of thing. Go read some Jim Butcher and tell me if he overuses these in his writing. I mean, it isn’t a terrible thing. It just gets old and repetitive pretty quick. I usually fall into the other extreme of almost never attributing dialogue. If it’s done right the voice of the character will clue the reader into who’s talking and you can dispense with them entirely. However, this runs the risk of leaving the reader confused and unable to follow the story. Sometimes I wont even set a scene. I’ll just have disembodied dialogue float through a section of a story, like the reader is listening to a private conversation through a locked door. I like the effect (I think Aldous Huxley did something similar once) but it moves the potential reader confusion rating into a whole new level.
Any thoughts? Should I plan more? What’s your method?