Planning Ahead? By R.E. Butler
I’m the sort of person that packs for a trip a week in advance so that I can be sure I don’t leave anything important behind. Could I survive a visit to my parents’ without the charger for my Kindle? Probably, but I’d rather not find out. I use the calendar on my phone to make sure I never miss appointments. I leave fifteen minutes earlier than necessary so I’m not late anywhere. You might think that I’m a fairly organized person, and you’d be right. Except when it comes to writing.
The fine art of planning ahead as a writer: being able to look at a character or storyline and envision it as its own book.
I used to randomly choose character names, give characters cool traits, or a prophesy about them without thought. In my early days of writing, it never occurred to me that readers would want to know more, until a storyline came back to haunt me.
When I wrote the first two books in my Wiccan-Were-Bear series, I created a secondary character named Daeton, who was the sister of the two heroes. Daeton was everything that my heroine Elizabeth was not: shy, innocent, young. In the second book, Daeton leaves her family so that she can be safe. I set up the scenario as simply an issue to solve on the heroine’s part – she was having nightmares and the solution was keeping Daeton safe. So it was much to my surprise when I started to get fan mail requesting a story about Daeton. My first reaction was one of utter disbelief. She was, after all, a secondary character and meant only to be the source of drama. Little did I know that she would resonate with readers, who would want to know what happened to the sweet, young were-bear once the second book ended. The problem? I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I had no clue what happened to her after the second book was over!
I called my beta-reader in disbelief. She laughed her head off. I had literally written myself into a corner with Daeton’s character and now I had a choice: leave my readers hanging forever about Daeton’s future or write the darn story. I wrote it, and it turned out to be one that I really enjoyed. But more than tying up a loose end I hadn’t meant to leave in the first place, Daeton’s story taught me to be more careful of what I write. Not only in cool-sounding prophesies and supernatural abilities, but also with names and physical descriptions. Now I ask myself…if a character becomes popular, can I write their story? Am I prepared to explain why a character has a fear of spiders or what a prophesy about a woman with white wings means? And now, thanks to what I learned with Daeton, I can honestly say that I can.