Wednesday, February 29, 2012

plotting vs. pantsing ... the ultimate debate

The ultimate debate isn't:
Peanut butter vs. chocolate
Tastes great vs. less filling
Republican vs. democrat
Love vs. hate
Cats vs. dogs
Marilyn vs. Ginger (and by corollary Wilma vs. Betty) 

The real and true ultimate debate is is whether a story is plotted or pantsed.  

A well plotted story is one where the author has done research, outlined, and backstories for each of the characters.

cemetery plots
The concensus among my friends is that plotting is dry and dull.  That it takes the creativity out of the story ... somehow, they think, it translates into a boring story for the reader.  

Think cemetery plots ... even, well spaced, not overly exciting.

Fortunately, the reader seldom knows what goes on in the wee pea brains of authors, provided the author has done his/her job correctly.

back of plumbing
backstory pics not available
I kind of like knowing the backstory to characters.  It is what I look for in a good, well thought out book.  Who were they before the curtain went up on the first page?  Do they have hopes and dreams?  Will the reader ever get to know what those are?

A lot of books that aren't plotted well don't take those bits and pieces into consideration.  The characters arrive for work on page one, paragraph one, dressed for work with no idea of how they really got there or what their overall importance is in the scheme of the book.

no pattern pants
Stories that are proported to be pantsed are supposedly more free flowing.  More organic.  More creative.

The pattern is that there is no pattern.

There is more onus on the writer to keep everything in his or her head.  To ensure that no matter what, they can keep everything straight.

The character arcs don't always work together.

Character development isn't always there.  (Think about the hero who is tall, dark, and clean shaven head on page one and fifty pages later, but only two days later in the story, a ponytail sprouts from the back of his head.)

I always thought that I was a pantser.

patterned pants
probably some planning
Recently, I reviewed how I wrote some of my first pieces and I came to realize I'm not really a pantser.  I do a lot of plotting but not always on paper.  

I like knowing the backstory to my characters.
I want to know what is hidden in the sock drawer (is it a secret stash of twenty dollar bills or is it emergency chocolate?)
I want to know how they did in school.  Did their hearts break when they were in their teens?  What is their favorite color?  How do they respond to dog kisses?

I guess I'm a bit of a hybrid.

Now, I just need to get back into the head of the current hero and make him DO something.

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