A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

I just finished listening to the audio book version of Scott Westerfeld's, Behemoth, the follow up to Leviathan. You can generally find me reading one novel while listening to another on the daily trip to and from work. It takes me a while to get into Steampunk novels, but I jumped right into Behemoth. It's a fascinating genre, one that requires quite a lot of planning.  Westerfeld must have done a serious amount of outlining for this series, because it offers a richly detailed alternate history of the events leading up to World War I.

Now I'm waiting for the audio book version of Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel to free up at the library. But as I often do, when I'm waiting and I'm in the mood, I'll pop in a Harry Potter CD for the drive. So, in went Deathly Hallows. And you know what? J.K. Rowling must have outlined the heck out of the series.

Seriously! When she wrote the Order of the Phoenix, did she plan for Regulus Black's locket to be thrown out with the trash, knowing full well that it was actually Slytherin's locket, which, as one of Voldemort's horcruxes, held a piece of his damaged soul? Did she do so knowing the prominent role it would play in the end of Half Blood Prince and a huge portion of Deathly Hallows? Or, when she set out to write the sixth book, did she look back over her earlier novels, looking for anything she might use? Did she say, okay, I need a little something that one of the kids might have seen. Oh, a locket! Hmm. Yeah. Locket. They'll find that locket. And ... and... I'll make it Hufflepuff's locket! Wait. No good. Riddle was in Slytherin's house. It'll be Slytherin's Locket!

Maybe she didn't even think of it when she wrote Half Blood Prince. Perhaps she just said, it'll be a locket, and then when she set out to write the penultimate book, she had to give it a back story. And then she looked back over the previous novels and said, hey look! A locket! They threw out a locket. I need a locket. Let's make up a story about that locket. Really, it could have been anything. What if it wasn't a locket, but an old chocolate frog wrapper in Ron's bedroom? If I wrote it, yeah, probably, and then Sorcerer's Stone wouldn't have been published, and then where would Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson be? (Maybe they'd have done just as well, but...)

You see, it couldn't have been a chocolate frog wrapper. I think Ms. Rowling planned out almost every last detail, and that's why the novels are so freaking brilliant. It is 100% clear that terrific series like Westerfeld's Leviathan, Clare's Mortal Instruments and Dashner's Maze Runner were not written organically, with events, plot and characters simply unfolding as they might. Do I know this for a fact? Heck, no. But it sure smells like it.


M.A.Leslie said...

I have to believe that it was designed and then written. It is just too perfect not to be.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Maybe she did have them all planned out.

I'm attempting a series and I do look at loose ends that I can use in the future.

Shameful Shill said...

Hey Jay,

I've been reading your blog for that last 3 or 4 months and have always enjoyed it. I'm currently sitting in a caribou coffee making myself miserable because I cannot start the outline of a sequel to my recently finished (as of yet unpublished) book.

You've inspired my to take out my frustration in the ever popular writer's blog format.

Maybe you can check it out and let me know what you think?

Thanks :)