Recently I read a well-written, well-reasoned article on plotting. I really couldn’t argue with anything the authors put forth, and as I read, that familiar feeling of inadequacy, of not quite meeting par or being a real writer crept over me… Why? I don’t plot.
The article maintained that every writer plots, some just do it in their heads. I thought about it as it applies to me and thought… to a certain extent, yes… and then no, I don’t. And then it struck me. This die-hard plotter simply couldn’t conceive writing a book without at least a simple outline. The ducks need to be in a row before you start shooting. The majority of the work is plotting the rest is filling in… etc, etc. Why? Because we’re wired differently.
And there is nothing wrong with that. However, just of the thought of filling out an outline, chapter summaries, etc before writing the book gives me the willies… I mean how does one write the book afterward? Does that make me somehow a lazy writer?
I admit that it does take dedication and writing an outline is probably a time saver…. But have you ever painted contrary to what the boxes told you? Or better yet, freeform? Glanced at the recipe and decided to experiment? Okay… I digress (and is it any wonder? I’m a pantser) For me, here is how I plot. And yes, I do talk to myself.
What if there was a woman, an empath?
Empathy has it been done before?
Not sure… So okay, what about this empath? What would her life be like?
She’d feel what everyone around her felt. It would be overwhelming.
Yeah, it would drive someone to drink.
Perfect! An alcoholic empath.
She’s the Shoshoni. (a character that popped up one day with no apparent home.)
She is the Shoshoni.
Perfect. *Connecting plot bunnies.*
Something bad has to happen to her.
Yup. *evil laughter*
I know. She finds out her fiancé never loved her. She accidentally compelled him to love her.
No. I don’t like that. She’s the heroine.
She doesn’t love him. He loved her but she just mirrored his affections.
That’s better. And when she finds out. She’s devastated.
How do the holy places factor in?
I don’t know yet. *Write Write Write. *Got it! There’s a council. She’s part of the council and left when she broke up with her fiancé.
*conversation with someone about the new WIP where, in describing it, more plot reveals itself.*
*Write write write.*
*to another writer* Hey, will you read these first few chapters? Let’s brainstorm. Other writer doesn’t think the character I described would leave the council for the reason above… she has a point.
So…. *think think think* Got it! She blames herself for her partner’s death. Delete, delete, delete. Study, study study Write write write
*lightbulb* The bad guy isn’t a bad guy… there must be another bad guy somewhere…. Who could he be? *think think think*
Got it. Someone who studied under the bad guy who now isn’t the bad guy…
*Write write write* Hey, I like this bad guy. But really… what’s his motivation?
He has to have a believable motivation.
*run, run run* (Oh… that’s the treadmill. It shakes the plot bunnies free every time.) Goes back and weaves new bad guy with new motivation through existing MS
I am now at 35K… the entire plot is there…. More or less. This is what I call the rough draft. It’s the equivalent to the plotters outline. I know where we started, where we’re going. Now I need to go back and add details, fine-tune, dig deeper into my characters motivations, etc. This second pass… what I call the first draft, is discovering the characters anew. Often times I find new plot threads and I’ll follow them, and weave them back in because I know where the main plot is going Do you get the idea? I plot as I write. It is the act of writing that inspires the plot. I learn more about my characters if I’m talking about them, or manipulating them on paper than I ever could by writing down height, weight and other pertinent statistics in a file. Do I plot in my head? No. I don’t. I daydream about the plot. I think about the characters about how they interact. I usually know the beginning, a few obstacles and the ending before I start writing. But not always. In fact, coming home from the grocery store, I ‘”saw” a woman enter her home very early in the morning–it was still dark and she was wearing last night’s clothes. There’s a man in her apt. He’s a former lover. He’s in trouble. She says she’s moved on. He tells her if she had, she would have spent the whole night. Tons of tension. Vivid images, angst, heartbreak… it’s all in the single flash of a scene.
Obviously there are a ton of missing details and no plot here. However, if/when, I take the time to write down their dialog.. boom. The plot will be there. I know this. I will find the plot as I write.
Most important: I found when I start with an outline, when I’ve tried to be a good, responsible and professional writer and wrote an outline, I write in a loose 3rd person POV. Why? Because I’m not the character as I’m writing. I’m telling it… telling the story I made up instead of living it. And it shows.
So plotters, please, I will never try to win you over to the dark side. Promise. You go ahead and plot to whatever level you feel comfortable, but please, leave us pansters alone. We are not unprofessional and every bit as “real” a writer as you are. Don’t make excuses for us, tell us we really do plot…. and tell us how we do it. We know, okay?
Let’s just agree to disagree.
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