Originally Posted by Steven Lyle Jordan
Sure, but even within that, you have a lot of control... for instance:
The bartender doesn't have a clear shot due to panicking patrons, spoiling his aim; he uses a shotgun, but forgot to reload a chamber after discharging it, so his first trigger-pull has no result; the barhop is knocked over by a running patron, and so doesn't see what happens; and Billy Bob has time to dive through the plate glass window before being perforated.
OR: Because of panicking patrons, Billy Bob and an innocent bystander get shot by the not-too-particular bartender; the bartender tells the bellhop to call for an ambulance, not the cops; then the bartender swears because everyone else has run off without paying their bills.
In both cases, the characters can act true-to-form, but circumstances around them still dictate their specific reactions. If you pick the right circumstances, it can help to bring out the aspects of the character that you want to highlight, such as a panicky bar forcing the otherwise-nasty bartender to hold his fire for fear of hitting an innocent patron... or showing his callousness by shooting through them.
I see that as a function of setting the rest of the scene. Is it a upscale juice bar or a backwater biker bar? What about an upscale biker juice bar? A bunch of yuppies might run for cover while a bunch of ruffians might join the fight. What if it was cop appreciation night? Ladies night? Free beer night? Any of those would have dramatic impact on how it plays out. Once the scene is set, the story grows out of that.
So, not sure how anyone else works. But I start with some major general goal in mind, then put my characters in their places and the story starts to grow out of that. I write iteratively, which is that i write a few chapters, then I go back to the beginning of the book and rewrite. Then I write some new chapters and then I go back to the beginning and rewrite.
Would an outline save me work? No, not even close because I just do not think in outlines. I think in pictures. Just not wired for outlining. I am in grad school, so when I have to submit an out line, I write the paper first, then go back and create the outline.