Mixing surprise and planning while writing a story

A comment about planning, and here I would also remember Herbert's Dune. The whole story of Dune's Chronicles is built on promises of something. We know that jihad is going to happen long before it actually happens. We know that Leto II is going to cause thousands of years of stagnation before he becomes the god-emperor, and so on. Herbert doesn't hesitate to give a detail about what will happen next, but because these future and current situations in hero's life so differ from each other, the reader becomes intrigued. How from this point it will get into that one?

The same thing you can notice in books of Tom Clancy. At the very beginning he shows two murderers, who deal with a drug cartel member, and he states: "They didn't know how many deaths they caused by their actions". And you become intrigued! Both Herbert and Clancy wrote the world known bestsellers, and those bestsellers expose a significant part of the story plan at the very start, should I say more?!

Basically, it's not just Herbert and Clancy, you can search for psychologist videos on YouTube about "How to become an interesting interlocutor" or "How to make people listen to you with interest" and so on. It's a psychic trick - to give the end of the story at the beginning, and the more contrast you put between the end and the start, the more interested people become.
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Maybe there is something about my practice you don’t like, but to call it Zen is reductive and dare I say a little disrespectful?
Sorry, I wasn't attacking your approach. I was being a little playful about your statement the way I understood it.

I wasn't challenging your character first approach to writing. I am trying to adopt it myself. As I stated at the beginning, my great joy in writing comes from not only developing the initial concept but the continual creative moments when "my characters do something" and "something happens in the world" (both of which my brain invents of course, because it is simulating the world).

You said
If your characters are congruent and real/realised they will act within the story accordingly and navigate to a rewarding conclusion for them (and thus the reader).
I interpreted your statement more absolutely than I now realize you meant it. Framed as "I do this." it's fine.

I still will like to point out that there is magic that we have to unpack there (which is what my initial question is). How does one construct a story when the characters do their own thing and the world does its own thing? How do we prevent Deus Ex machina? How do we fulfill promises that come up without seeming hurried and pat?

There seem to be two answers
  1. Go back and revise
  2. Let it be
I do #1 and I was just wondering if this made the stories "seamy". I suspect the answer is, "Yes, but you get better with practice."

I suspect even people who say #2 are without realizing it, guiding their characters as they write with an internal map of the story they have not written down.

(There is also an interesting note here that foreshadowing can be used to great effect, in fact it can be used to engage readers. e.g. prophecies (Dune, Harry Potter, many Super Hero stories) but I don't know if that is directly related to this question.)
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How does one construct a story when the characters do their own thing and the world does its own thing? How do we prevent Deus Ex machina? How do we fulfill promises that come up without seeming hurried and pat?
For me, I think the necessary component to make everything fit is having a framework.

I'm on my fourth novel attempt. For my first, I had an imagined world, but never had a framework to focus the story; it ended up being a lot of cool scenes without much plot advancement. For my second, I quickly identified it as a murder mystery (I realized this after killing a character in the second chapter). This provided a focus and forced me to create scenes that aligned with this intent even as I discovered who was the killer and what was the rationale behind the killing. For my third, I decided prior to starting that I wanted to create a heist story. I still needed to discover what was to be stolen and why, but this provided the model for promise, progress, and pay off. For my current attempt, I decided to write an assassination story. I through some additional hurdles in front of myself by also deciding I wanted to write in single PoV first person and that I wanted to include a betrayal scene. This one I ended up restarting multiple times until I got the right introduction for the story and I am now stalled at about 25 K words.

Does the framework concept help? It is a lot lighter than a plan, but provides an intent to write towards while leaving a lot to be discovered along the way.
When I start planning a new novel, I plan in broad strokes, brainstorming and listing the plot points that I want to hit at some point in the story. Then, I do a chapter-by-chapter outline where I list the key scenes/sequences. I work on this as I go, partly to keep up with the changes in direction that the story inevitably takes.
I didn't use an outline for my first book, but then when I had it edited I was told there was no obvious second act pause, and that the climax wasn't apparent. To me, at least, I thought there was a climax. I managed to rework it, but I think a rough outline could have helped here.
I keep in mind that just because I've made an outline (or a plan; or a framework) doesn't mean it cannot change. I mean, the writing itself undergoes multiple revisions, so why not the outline?

One process goes like this. I make a plan (outline, et alia). I start writing. At some point it becomes painfully obvious that I've strayed far from the planned trajectory and I'm deep in the tangle. I take a step back and make another outline.

Not, however, planning outline, or at least not entirely. Rather, this revised outline sets out and summarizes what I have *actually written*. I can compare that to the original outline, just in case there's something in the original worth saving. I also now can look forward to the rest of the outline, which becomes a second revision of the plan. I had originally planned to go over THERE, but I've written my way in a different direction so now the plan is to go over HERE.

There can be any number of iterations of this outline-revising process. In later stages the planning portion can get focused to where it's not a matter of changing the destination as it is being clearer on how to reach it. That kind of planning tends to pay more attention to pacing and character continuity.

Which bring up another sort of planning. A story has these components: plot, character, setting, theme. You may have more. The point here is that when we talk about planning, often the only thing covered is plot. Don't forget about planning a character arc or the development of a theme. I can't really see how to plan setting, but I include it for completeness. Closely associated, though, is logistics. This covers everything from blocking a fight scene to figuring out how to get that army across those mountains by this date.

All that sort of thing can be planned. It can also be unplanned, he said, cautiously eying the armed pantsers on his flank. But even if done on the fly, any of these elements can be outlined after written. It's one way to check continuity, among other things.

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