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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pantsers vs. Plotters

Which are you?

As a writer it’s interesting to note which camp you belong to. Are you the sort of person that sits down to the computer and sees a story like a movie, writes with perhaps no more than a premise written or understood by only you? Or do you sit down and write point by point researching your characters goals, motivation both internal and external, and the conflict of each scene? Understanding how you write helps you to overcome those dreaded bumps in the road, such as writers block or writing yourself into a corner with a sagging middle.

The first group described above the writer who sits down flips open the word document and begins…”It was a dark and stormy night…” and watches the story unfold on screen just as the reader does in the pages of he book. This style is commonly referred to as a pantser, meaning you write by the seat of your pants, on the fly, with a general sense of story. I am a guilty practitioner of this practice. I’m not sure I can ever be redeemed.

The second group, the one that spends hours researching every nuisance of their plot, characters, setting, maybe even clothing are our plotters. They have a clear road map of where their story is headed. They are not subject to the pratfalls of “what if” or second guessing. They probably were closet mathematicians, darn them.

The importance of note here is that recognizing which group you belong to you may develop strategies to help you overcome your short falls or to relax your rigid standings. There is room for all under the umbrella of authorship.

If you are a plotter, try writing down the major things that occur in the three acts of your story, beginning, middle, and end. You don’t have to write four to five page bullets but a general statement.

Beginning – Boy meets girl at coffee shop. Reach for the same cup make eye contact. Argue over whose order it is. He takes interest in her. Distracted and when he returns she is gone. Must find her.

Middle- takes add out in newspaper. Friend sees it internally knows its Girl. Badgers her to make the call and meet Prince Charming. Resist. Friend does it for her.. Meet across a crowded room. Date ends in argument both deciding they no longer need to see each other big mistake.

End- He can’t stop thinking of her. Distracted hit by car ( oh yeah don’t forget black moment) face pasted across news . Girl sees him. Rushes to his side, Hers is first face he sees when he wakes up. Happily Ever After

Ok that’s a simple version but you get the just. I’m not really looking at each goal each motivation; I have a general idea which should hold me. Blending the world of both Pantser and Plotter help to make a much stronger story and provide you at least a sounding board to bounce ideas. I do recommend reading Debra Dixon’s Goal Motivation and Conflict. Use it as a basis, but remember all writing books are written by people finding a system that works for them, including me and this blog. Always beg, borrow, and reinvent to help you with your writing. No one style rules the world. You and your voice are unique. Tell your story in your own voice and enjoy.


lastnerve said...

Great blog Nancy! I really needed to read that today. I would love to write but have no idea where to start. I think I would belong to the first group. Your blog just brought me closer to my goal of writing a book (that's good). Have a great day and thanks for blogging.

Stephanie said...

Just making sure it's working.