I’ve seen a lot of articles on panster vs. plotter. You know, one writes by the seat of their pants, while the plotter methodically plans out their book from start to finish. Seriously, wouldn’t that be nice. So today, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my world. Okay, not that big a glimpse, cause I don’t look that good in a bikini, but I can rock a good pair of yoga pants.
As for me – I’m a plotter with my pants on fire.
What in the heck does that even mean?
I’m not going to leave you hanging, I’ll attempt to tell you. First an idea takes shape. One book I wrote took form, all because a local funeral home puts up the beloved name of the deceased on their sign. I always thought that to be a little strange, anyway, one afternoon, after picking up my usual diet coke at the local Crystal Flash, (for those that don’t know, it’s like a Seven-Eleven), I saw an unusual name scrawled across the bottom of the sign. Of course, I had no clue who this man was, but just his name created a complete character in my mind, right down to his hooked nose, which flared when he became angry, his hatred of children, and his love for power.
I pulled over and jotted his name down, and everything about him I could think of. He later became one of my favorite all time villains in every sense of the word. Thus a character was born, but this isn’t about characters it’s about plotting.
How does a story creation begin for me? Pen and paper –
I pull out my yellow legal pad, each book gets its own, and scribble down an idea, circle it, then add more and more ideas which branch off from my original. This has a specific term called mind mapping. Since I have major OCD, I cringe when the paper overflows in a jumbled mess, but my creative side bounces for joy. The tangled web of notions sits on my desk for a day or two, while I let the ideas marinate in my mind. I then come back to my paper and begin highlighting paths that spark an interest.
One such idea came to mind from this concept. Say, people on the edge of society build their town around a Tree. At first, the Tree was a gathering place, a place for justice, but justice in scheming hands can be manipulated, and soon whispers and gossip gave the Tree a morbid mythology. Until the Tree became their hanging Tree, then the curse took root; touch the Tree, and you die, walk in its shadow, and you are cursed.
I took that idea, and came up with some super rich characters, and a creepy ominous world of good vs. evil. The ending already floated around in my imagination. I just needed to get to it. So I took out my trusty yellow paper and began bullet pointing my ideas. I didn’t care if they were in order, at this point, I just needed to get them down. The scene which came easy went onto my paper.
Then every scene went onto Post-it-Notes. Sticky notes littered my desk and walls, all with scenes and chapters. My office looked like an episode of
Criminal Minds. You know, the ones where they burst into the Un-Sub’s house and find the eerie room with a dim bulb. (Sorry I really wish I’d taken a picture of it, but apparently I didn’t.)
Why put them on Post-it-Notes? So they can be arranged in logical order. Did I mention I have OCD? (The picture to the right only shows the last act of my book, and it’s been highly organized, but you get the idea. Yellow for chapters, and Pink for fixes or extras I need to address.)
At this point, holes in the story emerged and I simply filled in the blanks.
Earlier, I promised, I’d explain what Plotter with my pants on fire was – it is writing with an intended goal, but out of nowhere characters don’t want to go the way you’ve planned. I’m sure you’ve had it happen to you, you’re typing along, words are pumping through your fingers, then, BAM, a burning freight train knocks you off the rails. Guess what, I sometimes let them, other times I scold them, but if, for whatever reason, they refuse, I simply remove my post-it-notes with their perfect order and pop in the new story idea. Sometime the ending changes, while other times it just needs to be modified. This allows my Plotter self to live in harmony with my Panster self, and all is right in the world.
Are you a Plotter or A Panster? I’d love to hear. Each of us have our own way of doing things, and I find it fascinating to delve into another writer’s brain.
Sonia Poynter is a homeschooling teacher, an active youth volunteer, and a writer. Much of her inspiration for her debut novel, THE LAST STORED, came from traipsing through the thick woods of Kentucky. The forest inspired her heart, and her father and mother, a Kentucky Colonel, cultivated her love for storytelling. For Sonia, every day is an adventure, providing her with an endless parade of eccentric characters and vivid worlds. Currently, she lives in a sleepy Midwest community, with the love of her life, and God has blessed them both with three amazing kids.
You can find her debut novel, THE LAST STORED here:
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