How do you develop your stories?  Do you plot in advance, complete with outlines and maybe index cards, or do you drive the book by the seat of your pants, letting the characters sort of lead you around by the nose?

I'm in the latter category.  I have no idea in the world how a book will turn out, or where it will take me during the process.  I started my current one with nothing but an image: a six-foot, feather-winged angel walking down a crowded street in a Bangkok slum.  I'm now almost 90 pages in, and I still don't know exactly who he is, but I'm having a wonderful time.

I'd love to hear from you, and also to suggest (if the subject interests you) that you look at my blog at, where some really good writers are addressing the question.  So far we've had Stephen Jay Schwartz, Bill Crider, Rebecca Cantrell, and Gar Anthony Haywood.  Up right now is Helen Simonson, whose first novel, COLONEL PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND has had amazing reviews by everyone from Oprah to Publisher's Weekly and the NY Times, and which entered the Amazon rankings, two weeks before its pub date, at 126.

I'd love it if you dropped by and took a look at the way these folks do it, but I'd also love some replies here.  This is a topic I can read about and discuss pretty much any time.

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Good advice, IJ -- Gaile, I think it's essential to create the characters as fully as possible before you even begin to drop them into the crime story -- they all have lives that are rich in experiences and other people and aspirations and fears, etc. Give one of them an enthusiasm you share and maybe a relationship or two based on in part on shared interests, and see what happens. Character is pretty much everything as far as I'm concerned -- I'm much less interested in the crimes than I am in the way the characters respond to is and how it affect them.
Thanks Timothy and IJ, I think I have a little of that going on, each of the characters are people with lives and family, neighbours, work colleagues etc, they interact and react according to who they are, their experiences etc. I guess the everyday part of their lives is what I am grasping for. eg Baldacci's 'The Camel Club' ...He combed down his hair, shaved off his five o'clock shadow, dressed, chewed a couple of breath mints and decided the big, somewhat weathered lug staring back at him in the mirror would have to do.... You see in a couple of lines of mundane activity, there is a whole portrait of the character. As you said Timothy character is pretty much everything, I guess it's like golf, you keep practicing, one day that ball just sails down the fairway. I'll just keep practicing - cheers
That's all any of us do, Gaile -- just keep putting one word after another.


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