Characters vs. Our Outline in The Charming Tales

When John Peck and I originally started writing the books which became The Charming Tales, we started with an outline that we both agreed upon. I remember being very excited about beanstalks, geese that could lay golden eggs, witches who lived in gingerbread houses and how our two main characters would deal with all of them.

And as we wrote, all of those exciting ideas blew away like a straw house facing off with a big bad wolf.

Our characters, particularly Liz Pickett and the rescued Princess Gwendolyn, suddenly took the plot into their own hands. We realized that we couldn’t write the book and follow the outline. The characters wouldn’t let us. We had too many questions about what they would do, and we both discovered that we were much more interested in what would happen to them than what would occur in our original plot.

So, we had a decision to make: Should we follow down the path that the characters were leading or change the characters to fit the plot?

This seems to happen to most writers that I know. The characters become fleshed out and developed enough that as an author, you suddenly fight yourself in mental arguments with your character.

Me: “Okay, Gwendolyn, you are at the ball and you are happy.”

Gwen: “No, I’m not. Not at all.”

Me: “But you were rescued.”

Gwen: “Do you understand how long I was a prisoner of the dragon?”

Me: “Look, it was fairly early in the book that you were rescued.”

Gwen: “Early for you, but certainly not for me. It was years!”

And so, I spend the rest of the evening trying to placate a princess in my head, all the while losing the argument with each passing moment.

What we ended up doing was following the characters and where their stories led. I firmly believe that this worked out much better for us and left us with a richer and more interesting story. We got to the point where I felt we were taking dictation from the characters instead of having to create the plot. If anyone has any thoughts on their own writing where characters and plotlines have clashed, please comment. I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,



Posted on June 27, 2014, in Charming and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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