When a Character Writes the Book

When I write fiction, my approach is to “fly by the seat of my pants”, a style often called pantser, as opposed to a plotter who outlines and plans every minute detail of a story. I’ve said that if I had to plot every trifling item in planning a novel, I’d slit my wrists. Plotting and outlining would kill the fun for me! I like it when I can hear my characters voices in my mind and they guide me through the adventure, thrilling me with surprises and the twists and turns that happen organically.

By being a pantser, new characters can pop into the story, especially if there is a plot twist requiring another person, like a street woman in Danger in the Coyote Zone. Writing about Juana brought me great joy.

Floyd, owner of Security Source where Nikki now works, made his debut in Waking Up in Medellin when it was obvious that Nikki needed a cohort to save her from the life-threatening trouble where she found herself. Floyd became one of the three main characters of the Nikki Garcia Mystery Series.

I could continue describing serendipitous incidents, such as the characters telling me where and how to end a plot, yet my latest novel, Stolen Diary, a coming-of-age story of a young math genius, is the best example of a protagonist guiding me through

her adventure. When I started Stolen Diary, I thought it would be a ghost story. Instead, Jasmin, the protagonist, led me away from the spirit world to her family’s tightly guarded secrets. Secrets are usually entangled with mystery and in this book, Jasmin must investigate them and overcome many hurdles in the process.

After I completed the manuscript, I researched the salient points of a coming-of-age novel to make sure I’d covered the important ones. My research turned up the following life-changing events in a child’s (or teen’s) life that make for a good coming-of-age saga:

  • Child discovers a parent’s secret from the past.
  • Child’s parents get divorced.
  • A family member gets sick or in some sort of trouble that changes the child’s life.
  • The family relocates to another city.
  • The young protagonist must attain a goal.
  • The young protagonist should mature into a responsible person.

Jasmin steered my pantser style to cover all the above points. She’s also told me that plotters write great stories and since they always know where they are going in the manuscript, they write much faster than pantsers! Of course, there is the plantser style, a combination of the other two.

What is your writing style?


­­­Kathryn Lane

Kathryn Lane writes mystery and suspense novels set in foreign countries. In her award-winning Nikki Garcia Mystery Series, her protagonist is a private investigator based in Miami. Her latest publication is a coming-of-age novel, Stolen Diary, about a socially awkward math genius.

Kathryn’s early work life started out as a painter in oils. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson.

Two decades later, she left the corporate world to create mystery and suspense thrillers, drawing inspiration from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.


All photographs are used for educational or editorial purposes.


6 replies
  1. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Hi, Kathryn. I”m enjoying one of Nikki’s adventures right now. Your characters and the exotic settings you place them in are a real treat! Keep on plantsing.

    • Kathryn Lane
      Kathryn Lane says:

      Saralyn, you wouldn’t believe it but I’m reading “A Palette for Love and Murder”. I love it! Once I finish this one, I will have read all the Parrott mysteries. I hope you plan on getting another one to your readers soon!

  2. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    I’m one of those pantser and planster types depending upon what I am writing. I love how your character made you cover everything. Always enjoy your writing, so it is interesting to see how you put it all together.

    • Kathryn Lane
      Kathryn Lane says:

      As I wrote this last blog, I wondered about your writing style. I thought I’d detected a bit of plantsing in the Sarah Blair series, but I wasn’t sure. That’s a series I loved, and I’ve recommended it to several friends that read cozies.

  3. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    How interesting! Your bullet points sum up a majority of coming of age trauma. The bend or break point of a young person’s age. I’m a plotter but it’s not tight. It’s more like a road map, with lots of ruts in the road or project cones!:)

    • Kathryn Lane
      Kathryn Lane says:

      Having read “Until Dead” recently, I thought perhaps you were more of a plotter than a pantser. I have not written a review yet, but I’ll get it done in another month or so! Really enjoyed it!!!

Comments are closed.