I'm working on a new novel, tentatively called Mindkiller. The protagonist is an assassin with supernatural abilities. I'm trying to give a pretty extensive backstory, inspired by Middlesex.
She needed a first boyfriend and I made him a punk rocker. I did that because I was a punk in the eighties--down with Raygun!--so it's a culture I'm familiar with, plus that part of the book--her youth--is set in the eighties.
But it didn't work. I realized he can't be her age, he can't be an awkward inexperienced punk, he can't be unemployed or an artist. He's gotta be a yuppie! A pretentious yuppie from a working class background, so he's got something to prove. And he's older than she is. Kinda like Patrick Bateman but not a psycho killer. So I went back and changed it all--even changed his name. I'm only fifty pages in and the boyfriend doesn't show up until page 20, so it wasn't that bad.
But I wondered if I could have avoided the extra work by doing character sketches. I normally don't do them--or even that much planning or mapping out of plot. I have a loose idea of where I want the story to go, and then I let the characters guide me and sometimes they change the story. I do some work in notebooks, but it's usually freewriting when I'm stuck. That or I do dishes. For some reason, doing dishes helps.
Any suggestions on mapping and sketching? Does anyone out there do extensive plotting? Does it change anything or do characters do what they want anyway?
Okay. Back to work!