Pitfalls for Writers, an occasional series; 5) – The Hijack
I think that I will frame this in the form of a question.
But before we get to ‘this’ question, which is the one that I really want to ask, I have a preliminary question: Are you a Planner or a Pantser?
Planners, of course, plan their stories in detail; the characters, the plot, the backstories, etcetera. Some may just have a rough map of the journey, but it is a map nonetheless; it shows the route from the very beginning of the first chapter, all the way through to the end.
Others will have minutely detailed plans of the whole story:
They will work out full details of each character, complete with likes and dislikes, quirks, friends, family, hobbies and anything else that you might care to want to know.
They will locate pictures of every location that the story references, with any relevant information that might be needed. Perhaps they will visit these locations (if possible) and take notes and photos, otherwise they might spend ages scanning YouTube videos.
There will be timetables ensuring that the continuity of the story is flawless.
They will research all historical/geographical/economic/etcetera details in advance, and then have them, neatly tabulated, close at hand.
Then there are the Pantsers.
Just like myself, I freely admit. We tend to sit down in front of a blank page and then start with a sort of ‘Ooh, that’s a good opening line. I wonder what will happen next? I did have an idea a few weeks ago that might fit in with that. Now, I wonder where I wrote that down?’ approach.
Personally, I do have, at the very least, a vague idea of where the story is going, and sometimes I even have the ending already written down (somewhere!), although it is subject to change as the story grows. Rarely do I plan in much more detail than that.
And then occasionally, as all writers know, a character might hijack the plot by refusing to do what I had intended them to do, and consequently to alter the whole storyline. But is that just us Pantsers?
So, ‘this’ question, then, is for the Planners:
Do you occasionally find that, as you are writing, you suddenly get the idea for a plot twist, or a really interesting character who fits into the story so well, and this despite your detailed plans, that you feel you have to alter your plan to include it? Even if you have spent three months on said plan and consider it inviolable?