Christina Henry–Plot and the Protag


BLACK SPRING(1)I’ve written seven books in the BLACK WINGS series and one stand-alone novel (the forthcoming ALICE, August 2015) and I’m pretty sure I can’t tell you a single useful thing about how I plotted any of them.  I know, this sounds a lot like what I said about writing character last week. The trouble is that I just don’t spend that much time thinking in a concrete way about the plots of my books.  I don’t have a nice neat formal method.

This is what I do: I start writing the book.  And then I see what happens next.

All my books begin with the protagonist, and I tend to let the protagonist dictate the action that follows.  I don’t write an outline, summary or synopsis of any kind.   I just let the book unfold as I write it chronologically.

I do have a general idea of where the book ought to end up, but I’m never married to that general idea. I’m always happy to toss it out in favor of something better if something better presents itself.

The interesting thing about writing this way is that the book becomes a process of discovery. I’m often just as surprised as the reader is by the outcome of the story. The story works itself out in my subconscious and emerges as I’m writing,

Recently, while I was writing ALICE, I fell asleep thinking about what I’d written that day. I also had The Tubes “She’s a Beauty” stuck in my head. When I woke up the next morning the most important scene in the book was there, practically already written, thanks to these two completely unrelated things stewing away in my brain while I slept. This is a pretty typical example of my novel plotting.

I write about 4-8 pages a day. I always write the book by hand in a notebook and then I slowly transfer the manuscript to a word document, editing as I type the book. This is a good process for me because I don’t like to re-read what I’ve already written and it forces me to re-read the whole manuscript once. I might refine a scene but I almost never make major plot changes while editing.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I never have made a major plot change once I’ve written the story down. I think that’s because, for me, the experience of writing the book is a lot like reading something written by someone else. I try not to analyze it too much and just let the story flow free.

CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the BLACK WINGS series (Ace/Roc) featuring Madeline Black, an Agent of Death, and her popcorn-loving gargoyle sidekick Beezle: BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING. She is also the author of the forthcoming dark fantasy ALICE (summer 2015).


Bio pic (1)Christina was born in New York and now lives on the North Side of Chicago with her husband and son. She sees no conflict in rooting for both the Yankees and the Cubs.

She also enjoys running long distances, eating large quantities of cinnamon rolls, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with zombies, samurai and/or subtitles.


2 comments to Christina Henry–Plot and the Protag

  • Razziecat

    OMG you’re me! Or I’m you! Well, except for the whole “having books published” thing… ;P But the writing process, yes! Seeing what happens next, being surprised by the twists and turns, is exactly what works best for me. 40,000 words can roll out of me in a month if I just tell myself, “let’s see where this goes” and follow the story. If I try to plot too much in advance, there’s no zing, no surprises, no passionate curiosity. Sometimes, when people talk about detailed plotting for pages and pages, I wonder if I’m doing it wrong. How lovely to hear that I’m not the only one who works this way, and it really can work 😀

  • Janet Walden-West

    I love your process! I started out the same way, then had a number of people tell me it was “wrong.” After trying it “the right way” and stalling out on word count, pacing, and plain old enthusiasm, I (guiltily) went back to my original habits–Right down to cheap pens and a Meade notebook before transcribing.

    Thank you so much for sharing.