Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pantster vs plotter: which are you?

There are two different theories of how to write good stories (there are possibly more, but these are the ones I’m familiar with at the moment). One says that you must plot out every move of your characters, plan every breath they take. The other says, “throw out the map and just drive!”

It’s funny—in all other aspects of life, I am a planner. I like to know what’s for dinner, who will be taking my pre-teen to karate, and what time we are going to my mother-in-law’s on Easter. When it comes to writing, though, I am more inclined to take an occasional peek at the map, but for the most part, I leave it in the glove box.

My definitions of plotters and pantsters are as follows:

Plotter: Plotters tend to outline every last scene, planning the first kiss, the first bom shikka bow wow and every speed bump in between. Before they even begin to write the story, they know who all of the characters are, including the secondary and “extras” (those who show up for a single scene in a single chapter and are never heard from again). They know each character’s history, right down to their blood type. Okay, maybe they don’t go that far, but some may… Many plotters will simply not put up with unruly characters trying to force a story in a particular direction.

Pantster: Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants when writing, hence the name. They are the polar opposites of plotters. Pantsters sit at the computer and let the words flow, hoping that their muses are giving them the proper directions. Pantsters may come up with a name for a character and then fill in more info about the character as the story progresses. They often have no clue where the story is going except perhaps toward a “happily ever after”. Characters often step in and change the course of the story. If the pantster tries to ignore the characters, said characters will often step in and grab the writer’s muse, traipsing off to Cancun with the muse for an indeterminate about of time.

Then, there are those of us who fall in between. We don’t have every little detail plotted, but we may have some notes on major plot points. We know more than just the names of our characters, but they can still surprise us. We know the general ending but not necessarily how we are going to get there. It’s driving with the roadmap but only checking it once in awhile—still some sense of adventure but with a course plotted out.

I know, in general, where my current WIP is headed. Any idea how to get there? Nope. 

So which are you? A pantster? A plotter? Or something in between?

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