Leave Room for Surprise

September 22, 2017


To outline or not to outline? That is a question many new writers ask. After years of being trained to create an outline before writing an essays, research paper, or thesis, some writers cringe at the thought of outlining a fiction novel. However, professional writers have a different answer. 


While authors of non-fiction books, may need to outline their materials, fiction authors vary. Some do like to outline before they write; however, most do not. Many fiction authors have a vague idea of where they are going, and possibly know some of the steps their character will take to get there, but the bulk of the journey their character will take is basically unknown when they begin. 


I heard one writer say, "If it's not a surprise for the writer, it won't be a surprise for the reader." I love that. It excites me when my character takes control and leads me to places that I hadn't intended to go. When that happens, I know that my character is solid. I don't have to push him or her to react to a situation. He or she just will. 

WRITING PROMPT: Pull out a notebook and begin writing a new story (any story). No outlining. No thought about the beginning, middle, or end. Just write. Set a timer for 15, 20, or 30 minutes, but keep writing until that timer goes off. Then look back on what you have written. Where did you start? Where did you end? Did you write something that surprised you along the way? 




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CAROLYN BENNET FRAISER is a published writer and creative writing instructor in Brevard, North Carolina, where she enjoys helping youth find their passion for writing. 

Carolyn is available to speak to children and youth about creative writing at your school or special event. 

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@ 2019 CAROLYN BENNETT FRAISER. All Rights Reserved.