Sunday, September 2, 2012
Plotter vs Pantser
I took this picture at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. While admiring the detail, I wondered if the artist knew what he would create beforehand or did he start with a chisel and let his imagination take over. Writing novels is much like any other piece of art. Some writers plot out every scene like I do. Some writers sit at the computer and let the characters take over the story. Those writers create stories by the seat of their pants and are therefore called pantsers. Some writers are a bit of both. I am a heavy plotter. I tried to be a pantser once, hoping I would reach inside and find well-developed characters who want their story told. After three chapters, I hit a brick wall and couldn't type another word. I needed my plot worked out ahead of time to continue. Some pantsers have told me they wished they were plotters because their characters get carried away and they have to throw out chapters that are not needed in the story. It could be a waste of time, but then they might have originally needed those chapters to get to know their characters better. Only that writer can be the judge.
So which system is better. I would argue neither. Everyone has their own style and the sooner a writer embraces it, instead of cursing it, the better off they will be emotionally. Have writers switched styles? I'm sure some have, but it isn't common. I have one friend who became a plotter because her story had so many intricate details, she had to make sure she included them in the right places. Writers who turn to mysteries have a reason to suddenly become a plotter. Mysteries need all of the clues placed in a logical order and sprinkled throughout; plus the red herrings need to be included as well. Although I know pantsers who have become plotters, I haven't heard of plotters becoming pantsers. It may have to do more with our personalities. I need to plot my life as well as my stories. I have a friend who would think nothing of quitting a job without a backup plan. I would have panic attacks.
Since I am a plotter, next week I'll go into how detailed I get when working on a story.