Pants For Plotters
We all approach writing differently so lets get that out the way as early doors as possible.
Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?
A traditional Plotter, put simply, is someone who plans out their novel, screenplay etc in full before writing it. A traditional Pantser is someone who gets an idea and begins writing the story without any plotting involved deciding to “fly by the seat of their pants” instead. You will find a gazillion articles and blog posts on this topic online but not many actually consider the alternative options.
For instance a traditional plotter may sit down and plot their story to within an inch of its life but there will always be a scene or sequence that once the writer begins to craft the story that, on reflection, doesn’t do the story justice so they have to “pants” their way around it. A Pantser may write themselves into a corner then have to sit down and plot their way out of it in contrast. There are also those that have a well plotted out ending and pants their way to it. These writers could be described as ‘pantsing for plots” I guess or the jazz musicians of the writing world. The same goes for writers who plot out the first act of a story and pants their way to its conclusion.
But here’s the kicker; I don’t think any writer is a traditional Pantser or Plotter. I think they try to paint themselves into either camp because of said articles, writing seminars and hearing their favourite writers say these mythical terms. It costs the world from hearing from interesting new voices as they fall to the wayside trying to conform to the either-or confines of that terminology.
I don’t really fall into either of the traditional camps myself. No matter if its a screenplay, audio drama or novel I know a few key things going in:
- The characters, protagonist, antagonist and lead secondary. I know them well, their wants, needs and how they tie their shoelaces.
- I know the genre I’m writing in. I know the sounds, sights and smells involved in that world.
- I know the beginning (sometimes) the middle and the end (not always) and I have a vague map jotted down on the back of a napkin from Dot’s Cafe in Orchid Grove to follow if I lose my trail of thought or my direction.
- I trust myself to find my way through the darkness to get where I need to go or, on the truly special occasions, I know to let my ego step aside and let the story tell me where it wants to go between the pre-planned destinations.
For example when I wrote the original six part television mini-series version of Orchid Grove I knew the reason why Kara Shaw was going back to Orchid Grove and I knew the first inciting incident that would propel the rest of the story. I knew a handful of characters I wished to insert in to the town but beyond that all I knew was the ending, that cryptic last scene. How I got there was anyone’s guess until I sat down and wrote those six, sixty-minute episode scripts. That does not fit either traditional definition. You could say I was ‘pantsing for plot” but I prefer to say I was allowing myself to enjoy every blind alley and dead-end road I went down along the way. I think it helps me create a stronger bond with my characters and build a better understanding of what’s working and what isn’t in the story.
Now again this isn’t for everyone as we all have different styles and different ways of crafting a story. I do believe though we need to stop labelling everything and pretending there are only two camps to be in. There are hundreds of ways to approach the writing process. Find the one that works for you, treat it well and it will see you through to the final fade out. And above all keep writing, do not fall to the wayside trying to be the square peg fitting into someone else’s pre-determined pigeonhole. You are an artist without boundaries, show the world what you can do and enjoy the journey, every success and failure equally. After all each make you a superior writer than you were before.
How do you start your writing journeys? Let me know in the comments below and in our exciting creative community.