December 8, 2014

Writing Tips (VII)



                                           A pantser or a plotter?
 
 Today’s post is not a tip proper. I’d like to share with you the way my stories come to life. In several interviews I had these  last two years after the release of  Shadows of the Past, I often had to answer a question: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Let’s see first what’s the difference between the two?

A plotter outlines before sitting down to write the novel; the author has an idea about the main characters, the basic plot points and the ending.

A pantser sits down at the computer and waits to be surprised, writing the novel by the seat of her/his pants, allowing the imagination to take flight.

At first, it confused me as I’d never thought about it. I must confess that there’s a certain degree of freedom of writing as a pantser, for sure. Nevertheless, my first draft is based on an outline  that is never more than a couple of pages.  I write this draft as if no one else will ever read it. (I hear about authors who make detailed outlines of their story that reach up to eighty pages. This is a chapter-by-chapter outline, meaning the outline visualizes the reader’s way through the novel.) So, I both have an outline of my story, a brief one, of certain scenes, and also let myself led by the action development and/or ideas that are triggered along the story by certain events in the protagonists’ life.

I get the story down how I like to write it, then use a basic  three act structure to organize and tighten the story.  Following it, I outline the basic beginning, middle  and end, that is, the setup, rising action and stakes,and resolution.

The setup familiarizes the reader with the protagonists, their world and show the problems they will face.  In other words, it shows the protagonists’ life and dreams, and lets the readers see the issues and flaws they'll need to overcome. Then the protagonists have to make a choice. Their decision links, in fact, the beginning and the middle. The middle  shows the protagonists’ struggle and growth and a series of challenges they undergo. The ending, the final showdown with the antagonist, shows the protagonists challenging their enemy, trying to outwit and defeat that antagonist. By the way, I use to write the last chapter first.
To conclude, I can tell you that after giving a serious thought to this question, I may say without any thread of doubt that, while writing, I do both things. I am a pantser and plotter combined.

Let me know to what category of a writer do you think you belong to?


16 comments:

  1. I think I'm a little of both, so I just made up the word: plonster. Hahaha I hope people won't confuse me with monster LOL.

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    1. Oh, I like it! Plonster! LOL! Good point!
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I have to have at least a point of departure and direction, but I do give myself flexibility. A rough quick sketch of what I want at the very least.
    As a work grows I do keep folders of each character, so that I don't change them as the story progresses.

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    1. Nice to hear from your writing experience. Yes, especially when the story has many characters, keeping folders with their details comes handy. Good to know. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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  3. Good post! Thanks. Just shred with twitter. :-)

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  4. Hi Carmen! I have to agree that I get frustrated by that question. I am a little bit of both. Love the word plonster by the way, hee hee. I'm a flighty person by nature, so I always fancy just diving into it. However I've discovered at least a little outline is necessary, and I need to know how I want it to end. Stories often changes direction but those first drafts have to. I reckon all writers have their own special mix of plotting and 'pantsing' :) Thanks for the post!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by!
      I fully understand you as, the same as you, I am a bit of both, with a tendency towards more outline. It may sometimes depend on mood too.

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  5. Hi, Carmen! I used to think I was a solid panster but the more I write I've recognized I'm a bit of both (hey, love plonster! :)) I generally start with a vague idea of what my story is going to be about and I flesh out character worksheets. Generally, I even have the first couple scenes in my head, but from there I pretty much wing it and let the story unfold as it progresses.

    My characters definitely influence the direction of my story as scene unfolds into scene, so often I'm surprised by events I hadn't expected.

    Fun post!

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    1. I think many of us combine these two ways of writing. After all it can't be a dividing line between them I appreciate your commenting the post! Thank you!

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  6. I have tried plotting, I have 3 stories all plotted out but they don't fire me to write. I can't see the pictures in the character arc so it doesn't work for me.
    My best currently results at present, I know it may change, happen when sit at the keyboard and let the images pour onto the page. I think sometimes I make life hard by writing this way but it seems to work.
    A very interesting topic.

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    1. Well, Daisy, you must write as you feel it easier. In fact there's no rule. We, authors make the rule. Thank you for stopping by!

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  7. Thanks for the post, Carmen. I am a bit of both as well and also like plonster. It's mysterious enough to make people stop and go, "Eh?" The first draft is the hardest for me, as I invariably feel all writing that came before was some kind of hocus pocus I have no power to replicate. Ooh, what a sinking feeling. I do like to start with an overall story idea, a loose outline, and the main characters in my head or in sketches. Having at least that much helps alleviate the sinking feeling. I love hearing how others do it. Thanks again.

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    1. I am so glad many authors came and shared the way they do the writing. Where do they start from. For me, too, the first draft is like child birth. Never easy. We are much alike, I'm glad to see I'm not alone! Grin!
      Thanks for commenting!

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  8. I am definitely a pantser and I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, the joy of writing is having the ideas flow to me and scribbling them down as fast as I can. Sometimes I'm just as surprised as my readers about what happens!

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    1. Thank you for sharing with us your way of writing! Yes, sometimes our "muse"simply takes us by surprise as you say.

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