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Hello visitors. On my blog I'm talking about my books, but also about what I'm currently working on and, maybe, some other stuff. Browse through my posts and don't forget to check out my older posts in the archives. If you are interested in my books, please, visit my website Fictitious Tales for more information and a few excerpts. You'll find more excerpts in my old website Herbert's World. Also, take a look at my second blog Herbert Grosshans, where I talk about fun-stuff and things that concern me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Outlines versus spontaneous writing

When someone asks me if I create an outline for my stories before I begin writing, I can’t really give a definite answer. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
A story begins with an idea. It may be a word, a sentence, or a concept.
My novel ‘Seeds of Chaos’ started with one sentence: She had emerald eyes. I heard it in a song I was listening to and I thought it might be something I could use in one of my stories. After I wrote down the sentence I thought, “Okay, she’s got emerald eyes, now what?”
That sentence led to a novel 124,000 words long. Even while I wrote the story I had no idea where I was going with it. I didn’t know who exactly my main character was until I was about halfway through the novel. It came to me at a moment of insight. Of course, I had to go back throughout what I had written and change a few things, but I had a good idea how the story would end.
My Xandra series which so far consists of three books started with a vague idea and I wrote the first chapter. The characters appeared as I wrote and began developing from that point. I had no idea that first chapter would lead to three books totaling 195,000 words, and ideas for more books to come. In fact, right now I am busy writing Book Four and then Five.
And that is how I like writing my stories the best…when I don’t know where it will lead me. I don’t worry about that because I am always sure of one thing: In the end it will all come together. It will all be revealed when the time is right. I know that sounds so mystical, but that’s how it works for me. It’s like reading someone else’s book and I enjoy the excitement of discovery.
Usually that’s how it works.
I like to experiment with different ways of writing. As I mentioned I am currently writing Book Four in the Xandra series. When I began writing it, I wanted to write about what happened to a research team I mentioned in Book One, Daughter of the Dark. Originally, the team consisted of ten members as determined in Book One, but I wanted more characters, so I took a character who briefly appeared in Book One and wrote his story. As happens so often, he took on a large role and now I am at 95,000 words with his story and still not finished. A minor character at first, he turned into a main character who requires two books to tell his story. In fact, he demanded to have his story told first.
And it is not the end of him, because he will also be a character in the following books, a supporting actor so to speak, but he will be there.
One thing I have to mention, even though I wrote the book without an outline, I know exactly how it will end, because the character has to be introduced into the next book. In this case the ending was already in my mind before I started writing the novel. Which is not always the case.
The book which was supposed to be Book Four in the Xandra series and will now be Book six (and possibly seven), originally started with ten characters. They were not individually mentioned in Book One, but their number was fixed at ten. So I created ten characters and made a file for each one with his/her name, background, appearance, age and whatever else seemed relevant. Just a skeleton more or less. As I began writing they came to life and I had to add more and more to their file.
I wrote down some ideas about what might be happening with them, I even had some sort of an outline, but I have to update it as the story develops.
I could never write strictly following a mapped outline where the characters and the storyline are fixed. It would take away the fun and the joy of telling a story. It would be a boring story to write and to read. Formula-writing takes the creative process and makes it into a collection of lifeless words and phrases without a soul.
My main characters are usually Alpha-males and the story is told from their point of view.
I only wrote two short stories and one novel from a woman’s POV: ‘Gin and Tonic’ which appears in the digest ‘Summer Sensations’, and ‘Vania Starborn’, one of the stories in my Anthology ‘Tapestry of Dreams’.
The novel ‘Orola, Warrior Priestess’ is actually a collection of short stories chronicling the journey of Orola.
I didn’t find it difficult to write from a woman’s POV, no more difficult than writing from a male’s POV. Sure, by default a writer puts much of his/her own personality into the characters, but my characters do not necessarily reflect my personality. I am not them. What they say and do in the story is not always something I would say and do. Their opinions are not always mine. I may not even agree with what they do.
What I want to say with this is I have to put myself into the character’s head and think like them, be they a man or a woman. I admit, being a man, I will never be able to think exactly like a woman, but being married to one does help to know how a woman reacts in certain situation and even to a point how she thinks. Let’s face it…we are all individuals with our own quirks and ideas and nobody really knows how another person thinks, not yet anyway; so even as a man I can only guess at another man’s thought processes.

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