Friday, May 27, 2011

Plotter or There Really a Difference?

Okay, okay...I know I'm going to crack the hornets nest with this post, but something hit me earlier in the week and I've been brewing on it since.

Is there really a difference between a plotter and a the core of it?

The biggest thing I hear about pantsers is they say they fly by the seat of their pants and knock out a story one scene at a time with no idea where the story's going to end.

I'm a plotter.

I know I'm a plotter and am okay with it. Not just a plotter but also layerer (it's a word, an AR word). In reality, I fly by the seat of my pants, knock out a story one scene at a time and I never have an idea where the story's going to end.

The difference is I sit down and get to know my characters and their motivation a little first before I start writing. I imagine the story in my head and note the scenes as I'm thinking through it. I lay out each scene the characters go through on their journey and then in my head think about where the characters would go next based on their personalities.

Jane just got smacked in the face by Renaldo. She's a tough little nut. Would she cry and walk away or would she plant explosives in his car, then cackle when he started the engine and it blew sky high? -- She'd go with B. In my scene box I'd write, "Jane plants bomb in car, sits at bistro with a tall mocha and waits."
Really, the outline for me is a very raw first draft that's about 95% telling. The next few "layers" add depth and sensory to the scenes.

And, I get surprises all the time along the way during the journey.

Jane laughed while the car blew...but in her heart she knew she'd killed the only man she'd ever love...
What? Are you crazy? Is she crazy? Someone's crazy! (Eek...maybe it's me! You know what they say, if you can't pinpoint the one in the group it means it's you.)

From outlining through the final draft I'm smacked with "What the Wisconsins!" moments all the time. People live or die I didn't think or want to live or die and characters react in unexpected ways.

I don't know, maybe it's the fact that plotters mentally detail the story a little longer and court their characters a bit more than Pantsers. Whereas Pantser get a really cool idea and the general theme of the story and start writing right away and learn about their characters as the story unfolds on the paper.

Or maybe plotters just note down their ideas beforehand, whereas pantser don't. But as a plotter, let me tell you...I have millions of ideas throughout the day, and about 15-20 different in-progress or future story ideas. That's a lot of thinking! If I didn't jot them down somewhere most of those ideas would be lost.

Okay, that's my rant. I'll go hide behind the couch and wait for the cabbage throwing to begin.


  1. Have to say, I'm a lot like you when it comes to writing. I set out the plot, scramble notes, then re-read, embellish and then polish. I usually spend a lot of time re-reading previous chapters to make sure it makes sense.

  2. I'm kind of in between. I pants my way through the initial scene where my H/h met, developing background, conflict and character as I go. After about the first 2k or so I brainstorm an outline. My outline is really more of a scene list but I fill in as thoughts come to me about scenes etc. Usually it can be rewritten pretty easily into a synopsis.

  3. Sorry all, I couldn't seem to comment -- on my own blog no less -- yesterday. Thank you both for stopping by.