Sunday, August 1, 2010

Three Years for a Chance

Moving again soon, new job and new life, again. Can't complain, if you aren't happy, keep walking. That's my motto.

But between all my frenzied worrying and rampant excitement I did have some thoughts about writing. I stumbled across this website that described a method of novel writing called the "snow-flake method". This, coupled with fiction writing commonly being used as an analogy for executing a heavily planned project I arrive at a significant and worrying problem. How much planning is enough and how much is too much?

Is there an answer to this? Some will tell you to start at the "tag-line", a sentence that can sum up the entire novel and work outwards from there. Some will say, like the inventor of this snow flake method, you should have every last page planned out before you even start writing.

Okay, so time to express my opinion. Planning is death for fiction. Here is why I think this is the case. It's a one word reason, characters.

Heavy planning assumes you can build a story and inject the characters at a later stage. Heavy planning results inevitably of breaking these characters. Every time I've tried planning on a large scale I have faced the question, who wins; the character or the plan?

You see it in fiction of all sorts, early iterations of great shows like Peep Show or Red Dwarf are heavily character driven. Nothing happens that is not believable and that is the source of their greatness. But soon planning, the need to make a predefined story work out wins out. Characters are reduced to a handful of traits and all of this greatness is lost. People will still watch it but the golden age is over.

In my writing I try to use this method. I think in terms of characters and events and then see how things resolve themselves in real time, so to speak. I suppose you could argue that you could plan in the same way, maybe that's something that comes with experience. Maybe, but given that most modern fiction is totally unreadable to me I think that might not be the case.

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