Other than ‘Plot or character first?’ there is another question that writers seem to get asked a lot: ‘Do you plan or just wing it?’
The answer, for us, is a mixture of the two. All of our WIPs have certain planned out plot points. Some we know for sure when, where and how they slot into a particular story and require very little alteration when it comes to writing them up. Others – usually our sketchier or possible ‘life-changing’ events for the characters – require the plot point to be ‘played out’ beforehand. The majority of the time we find out that something we had pre-planned doesn’t actually work as well as we initially thought, or sends the characters in a direction that they are unlikely to recover from, thus, stalling or all but killing that story – as has happened with both of our major WIPs
Then there are the plot points and scenes that fall into the ‘not knowing’ part of today’s topic title. We find at times – especially if it concerns the characters we have been writing for the longest – that we’ll be writing away when out of the blue a character will do something, or something will happen that we didn’t plan and had no prior ‘warning’ of. These are the “where the bloody hell did that come from!?” moments. And, oh, do we love those moments, sometimes they rebuild the whole structure of the work.
So, to sum up… Yes, we plan. Yes, sometimes we wing it as well. The planning helps us keep track and something of a structure to a WIP, but we don’t necessarily keep to the plans (not strictly at least). As for the “where the bloody hell did that come from!?” moments… well, some of our best ideas (and most evil) have come on a whim.