Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

April 21 2013

by A. Y. Stratton

No two writers have the same routine. Some plot out every scene, every emotion, every kiss. Many “plotters” go through magazines in search of photos they can use to picture their characters, the house someone lives in, the car the hero drives, the horse the villain rides, or the weapon the bad guy carries in his pocket.  

None of the above works for pantsers like me. Once I know all those details, the fun fizzles.  It’s like reading the last chapter before you start a book. I need a bit of intrigue as I write. Of course I know the two lovers will be together at the end of the story, but when I set up the complications, the conflicts and the big black moment, I am testing myself to get my characters out of their messes.

I began Buried Secrets a couple of summers ago.  I wanted to use an action scene to introduce my primary characters, Nathan and Kate.  I pictured Kate sneaking into the home of a stranger. Then I thought what fun it would be if my hero, Nathan, had sneaked in just ahead of Kate in order to investigate the owner of the home.

This was a romance, not a crime story, so my heroine couldn’t be a thief. I confess it took me awhile to come up with an honorable motive for Kate. For some time I’ve wanted to feature a piece of furniture with a hidden drawer. This was my opportunity. I decided Kate would have a grandmother who was old and ill and had recently moved to an assisted living residence. Her home had been sold, along with most of her furniture, including a cabinet with secret drawers, drawers that still held hidden papers, twenty-year-old evidence that might incriminate an important person and shame her own family.

Okay so far. But what was Nathan looking for? I decided he was a lawyer with a grudge against the dishonest man who owns the house.   

And then, while Kate and Nathan collide and are compelled to get on with their work, the worst thing happens…

Even before I started to write Buried Secrets, I had the perfect house for this story—the one that belonged to my in-laws. After I finished a couple of chapters, I ran into my sister-n-law and I said, “I just killed someone in your bedroom.” She looked confused, so I added, “In a story, in my new story.”

She laughed and said, “Is it anyone I know?”