Those of you who don't outline - do you prefer to use extensive character background work?

Those of you who do - do you also use extensive character work?

I noticed while working out an outline for the new novel that my character backgrounds are more sketches than full profiles. I know with the last one, I discovered a lot about the characters as the plot unfolded. So I don't mind so much that I don't know the characters that well going into this novel - I have an outline.

That might seem bass ackwards, but I think of it as getting to know a person the way you would IRL - you don't know everything about them from the outset, but with some people, you can kind of see where their lives are going. Sometimes they do what you expect; other times they don't, and the surprise is what makes it interesting.


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I'm pretty much the same as Olen. You introduce a character, you have a general idea who he or she is, he or she acts in certain ways, and the background is revealed in context.

I always thought that those character outlines that some writing instructors and textbook writers want writers to complete are like filling out a questionaire on someone I don't know yet, but will soon get to know.

When I start with the generality, the specific fills in pretty quickly. I usually know only a few things before I begin to write about a character: the obvious character traits, the general description, one very specific goal, and one or more specific qualities, whether the character developed those over a lifetime or discovers them while facing the problems of the story.

Jack Bludis
Olen's example about wondering about a character's background after the fact just happened to me. After setting out to show the brutal mayhem created by an assassin, I reached the end of the book realizing that he was my only flat character, an arch villain. Alas! Cannot have that. Must give him the sort of background that made him what he is.

Quite right, Olen.
I do the whole shooting match - character biogs and outline. I love the planning stages of a book which is why my poor editor is waiting for my promised draft and I'm fannying about on Crime Space.
I do full plot outlines, with scene-by-scene summaries. The outline gives me a journey, and like all journeys, sometimes you take a detour, but you never get lost if you know the destination.


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