Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dean Koontz on Plotting

I picked this up off an Amazon plog. It's Dean Koontz's response to a question about plotting:

Q: Which do you think of first: character or plot? --John, Columbus

I do not plot. Not consciously. Characters drive the events of the story and take me places I never would have anticipated. This does not mean that every book starts with a character. Some do--like ODD THOMAS, in which I knew the character in detail long before I knew what his story was going to be. In books like THE HUSBAND, the hook--some would call it the concept--comes first, but the concept is not a plot. It is more a situation, a premise. With that, I have to know who the lead characters are, have to understand them, and in the understanding of them, I find the plot chapter by chapter. This feels organic to me, and character-driven stories feel more real, even when they are stories of the fantastic, than do plot-driven books.

In personal news, I finished my article on Jim Sallis so I'm taking the day off. Unfortunately, I had a bit too much drink last night and am not feeling very good at the moment on my day off.


cs harris said...

Take vitamin B and milk thistle, drink lots of water, and eat an apple. These words of wisdom came from my daughter--who isn't supposed to drink with her porphyria-- and it really is a miracle cure. Although it works best if done before retiring!

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

You know, sometimes it's difficult for people to recognize the difference between plot and concept. It's why so many folk will say: I have a great idea, when what they really mean is, I have a great concept, but now I need a great plot to execute the concept.

I think people start writing the concept, with things poorly worked out in their heads and with no end in mind.

Clifford said...

I'm one of those concept writers -- it almost alwlays begins there for me. Is my first draft a great big outline? Yeah, but I do end up keeping much more of it than when I've tried to work from a traditional outline.

Sometimes when I'm reading a book that's pedestrian and controled, I can almost visualize the author's outline as I go along. For me, once I've created an outline I've kind of put myself in a box -- veering very far and discovering new possibilities is pretty much out. That said, my work would probably be cleaner and more polished if I reigned myself in a bit...

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

The beautiful thing about an outline is that you don't have to use it. I wrote an extensive outline for my latest book, and so much changed in the writing, that now I am being forced to rewrite the second part of the outline to accomodate all the changes.

But with the outline, I could keep track of things, follow threads, themes..its a road map. A way of keeping track of where you were and where you want to go.

SQT said...

I look at an outline as a framework but not something that is so structured and rigid that I can't work outside of it.

But I think it's good to distinguish between plot and concept if only to help a writer move the story forward.

SQT said...

Oh, and I wish I was like Koontz in that I could write without a plot, but it just doesn't work for me. I don't have a good flow if I don't have an idea ahead of time of where I want to go.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...


I am glad to have met you online this year. It has been a pleasure getting some sense of you through your writing and through our exchanges.

Let me wish you and your family a most Merry and Peaceful Christmas. Enjoy the season, friend.