Writers Carry Road Maps, Characters Carry Matches

I’ve been discussing my personal rules and methodology a great deal as of late, let me take a moment to describe one of the more interesting elements in my writer’s toolbox, the Road Map.

Many writers use outlines, defining each element in advance.  Many are discovery writers, learning the depths of their story only by writing it.  I lie somewhere in between, using some structure and finding the details as I proceed in my authorial travels.  Of course, I have another dirty secret too: I write out of order.

The only way all of this can actually work for me is to use something to keep track of it all. This is my road map, a simply document, something I use to compare where elements in the story are supposed to go.  Once I have a few things in place, I can take new scenes and drop them into the gaps, moving them around as I see fit to improve the tale.

The fun thing about all this is that, as I discover the smaller elements of these stories I write, I find myself confronted by shifts in characters, their preferences, something.

An example of this is one of my lead characters from Ashes of War, Hokairu Itobe.  As a nobleman, Itobe dresses well, is a leader of men and a captain capable of making war, even in dire situations.  His inspiration came largely from the Gundam Wing character, Zechs Marquise.

The more I played with the character, the more I discovered about him and the things he embodied, the more I realized I was only mostly right.  If I had my choice of casting for the character in a movie or show, I would go with the character actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Naturally, this alters something profound in Itobe.


Where Ashes of War simply revolved around fighting before, it had to change shape with this alteration.  Instead of being just a tale including a nobleman, issues of race arise.  Essentially, because of this change, Itobe became a greater character for me, but I had to figure out his origins.  Once I did that, I saw there were greater chances to explore elements from what some people refer to as a Moses tale, taking one child from his native people and raising him in another culture where he reaches greatness.

I’ve recently had another round of characters taking over their stories.  I had a lead character, who I intended to be a woman with asexual tendencies, decide she wanted to be different.  Regardless of any intentions I had for her, even in the denouement of the story, she had other feelings.  Her tendencies were still asexual, but should she react, this character firmly revealed herself to me as a lesbian.

Oddly enough, I was in need of a solid sequence to finish the story, to give it the proper emotional conclusion.  Because of this revelation, I had to rethink some things, but I ended up with an ending, which is incredibly important.





2 thoughts on “Writers Carry Road Maps, Characters Carry Matches

  1. This is an interesting look into your methods and thinking. I fall somewhere between a planner and a panster – I like to do character profiles but the plot rarely gets more than a sentence summary until after I’ve written it! It’s fun watching your story evolve though, my 2011 Nano changed and twisted on me.

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