A Life of Their Own

If you’ve spent any time at all exploring the technique of creative writing, you’ve no doubt heard some writers say that they start out with a certain story in mind, and then, as characters are invented and fleshed out, the piece takes on a life of its own. The story that the author started out writing, in turn, potentially comes out as a different tale altogether.

There are others who say the “characters developing a life of their own” is foolishness, and that a “good writer” develops an outline for a piece long before sitting down at the keyboard to pound out the details.

I am not here to say who is right.

I will say, though, that I’m not very good at outlining a story before the story has unfolded in my word processor. Rather, I tend to write segments of a story, and then outline those segments on paper or index card. It’s mainly a process I use to keep up with what has happened to who so far (as well as the detail of my characters themselves). In short, I use outlines more for preventing inconsistencies than as a guide for developing my tale.

Is it the “right” way to write creatively?

Is there a right way?

I prefer to think there isn’t.