The Real Reason I Outline

I'm nearing the end of The Great Air Pirates YA Revision of 2010, and I discovered something. For years now, I thought I outlined because I'm an obsessive compulsive planner. And I am. But the real reason I outline, as it turns, is because when I draft I'm a wimp.

See, in Air Pirates there's this character that dies. I mean, a lot of characters die, but there's this one in particular. I really liked this character, but as long as they live, the protagonist has no motivation for change. Not a very interesting story.

So I killed the character in the outline. It was easy. Just a quick sentence: "So-and-so dies. Protagonist goes nuts." No problem.

But when I got to that spot in the draft, I froze. Did they really HAVE to die? Did I have to write the words that killed them? I didn't want to do it, and I was sad when it was done. But I did it because I outlined it that way, and I couldn't think of a better solution (also I didn't want to re-outline half the book just to accommodate the suddenly-living character).

That was in the first draft. Then the means of this character's death had to change for the YA version, and I had to kill them AGAIN. It took me like an hour just to type the words that made it real, and if I hadn't planned it, I wouldn't have done it.

So there you go. I don't outline because I'm afraid to wing it. I outline because, if I didn't, my characters would just win all the time. While that's lots of fun for me (I do like my characters), anyone I swindled into reading it would get bored fast. And since my characters can't pay me, I guess that makes my choice easy.


Unknown said...

It is sad to kill off characters but personal growth is accelerated by extremes.

Matthew MacNish said...

OMG LOL. "My characters can't pay me". That is classic FTW! I actually have similar problems with being too nice to my characters, but I'd never thought of outlining as a way around it. Interesting idea.

vic caswell said...

maybe i ought to outline...

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Another awesome reason to outline!

I killed a character too - it was my first time, and man it was hard. I stalled, for like months, before writing that scene.

p.s. you won't have to swindle people to buy your work - they're going to be lining up out the door. :)

Darby Karchut said...

Yup, I'm an Outliner, too. (Hmmm... sounds Australian), but I have given myself permission to veer off course as the Story Gods dictate.

Your book sounds intriguing.

Myrna Foster said...

And the character I killed happened organically, not part of the outline. I fought it because I thought I needed her later, but it all turned out for the best. I hope.

Isn't it interesting how writers all have different processes?

Adam Heine said...

@Matthew, I never thought of it as doing that either. It's an interesting discovery.

@Susan, It'll be weird if people line up outside my door. I'd probably let them in though, after having flown such a long way.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Surely, Thailand has bookstores?? If not, then clearly you will have to come to the States for your Book Tour of Awesome. I'm putting in my request now for a stop in Chicago. :)

Adam Heine said...

Thailand has bookstores, but for the most part the American books they carry are written by Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and JK Rowling. Maybe in Bangkok.

As for my book tour (how dare you feed my daydreams, Susan ;-), if I ever had one I would have to fly out there, but I have no idea where I'd end up. Except California, of course.

I'll keep Chicago in mind :-)