To hold back on the urge to jump into the pants pool, or to live-test plotting problems, I will let my characters write me letters. There is always a quiet corner of a scene, even a finale, where a character could observe from.
They can tell me what they see, how they feel, and often bring up things I hadn’t thought of from an overhead view. It could be a phone call, or a text exchange. A twitter post. A diary entry. In the end, the format doesn’t matter. Letting them talk to me in whatever way makes sense lets me develop my character’s voices while I’m still plotting.
One of my A Team refused to enter a scene because she’s deathly afraid of spiders. So, now I know something that I wouldn’t have planned otherwise. That’s kind of neat.
A bonus side effect is: what seems important to one character will be completely overlooked by another one. For example, one of my characters feels emotionally separate from the world around her. She sends some really calculated, insightful observations that will definitely make it into scene exposition.
Another character could have the world fall on top of her, and she would insist that the weight is great at working out that sore spot in her back. Her ability to squeeze out a positive lie has led to more drama between the two of them than I could have hoped for as a
torturer of imaginary people writer.
So with my Rules of Engagement in place, I’m ready to start plotting. It’s got me a little anxious, but excited too. I look forward to seeing where this all ends up.