Setup Pays Off

Last night, I sat down and wrote a small scene. In it, the character needed a beat that said not only he knew where the character was being locked up, he knew who the character was with so the first character definitely had insider’s knowledge.

And I didn’t know who he was with at the time. I actually put ______ as a placeholder because I’d have to think about who would be significant in the story to be there that I’d already established, because, at 85k, Thou Shalt Not Introduce a New Character Who Only Matters for just this Story Alone. If I could think of anyone by Monday’s writing, I could delete the line as much as it would pain me.

I don’t outline. I can’t. If I outline a story from start to finish, I’ve already told it and I’m bored when I sit down to write it. But I take a sack of setup and spread it think and heavy over the beginning and just see what grows in it that I can harvest later. I don’t need to know why something is significant and I don’t know when I write something that doesn’t feel significant at the time that it’s going to be a load-bearing wall in the second half. I just write a character trying to solve their problems as the events they live through make matters worse.

All I need to start a story is a character with an interesting voice and a problem. Everything else that happens in the story, the character and I figure out together and then I go back and edit what happened is a clear path from the beginning while also making sure the characters at the start of the book are the characters at the end of the book minus all the character growth they’ve suffered through.

I write to snooker myself in the part of the day I’m not physically typing. I don’t know what’s in the bag the character finds. I don’t know why the two characters who didn’t know each other exchanged significant glances. I don’t even know what the antagonistic force wants in the story until I’m usually a third of the way through it at least.

I write to find out what happens. It’s a blast, even if each time I do it, I wonder if this is the time I’ll have to go back and delete there being a bag at all. But then all I need to do is brush my teeth and I know, obviously, it’s a sterilization unit with a sample from X in it. What else could it be?

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