Friday, March 25, 2011

Pantser or Plotter or...

My post it a little late this morning because the calls for Golden Heart and Rita finalists went out this morning. After the butterflies and angst over whether Enemy Within was good enough or not good enough, the phone rang once at 8:02 and then again at 8:09. :)  The book finaled in Best First book and in Paranormal. I'm still shaking. Now, however, I'm supposed to think clearly and work.

My answer to the panster or plotter question is: yes. I do an odd amalgamation of the two. There's another question that I have to ask in order to explain what I do. Are you a character driven or plot driven writer? If you're plot driven, what happens in your story defines who your characters are. If you're a character driven writer, who your characters are defines what happens in your story. I totally made those definitions up. But it really is how I think about story. I'm distinctly a character driven writer and up until the start of Enemy Within, I was 100% pantser. Which is to say, I had no clue where a book was going or why. I knew where it began and I know vaguely how I wanted it to end, but everything in the middle was a mystery. The result was a series of events that happened to my characters simply because I said so, or because I thought 'hey, this would be cool'.

Not a one of those books is publishable, much less published. By coincidence, just as I began Enemy Within, I took a Break Into Fiction workshop given by Mary Buckham. That's where I realized how very character driven I am and how desperately my storylines need to come from the strengths and failings of my characters.

So. I'm a plotter in that there's a huge set of templates (directly from Break Into Fiction) I work through for both hero and heroine before I can start writing. This puts me directly into their conflict and dilemma set. I have a good grasp of their emotional start points and of the arc necessary for each of them if they are to achieve their HEA. That, then, leads to situations and scenes that must occur to challenge the pair. But you'll note there's no actual plotting happening. That's because like several of my fellow Word Whores have already said, if I know too much about what happens, why should I write the book?

On the other hand, I can't know too much about the characters. The more I know, the better the book becomes. The more I know my hero and heroine, the better the chances that they'll start running scenes in my head without any input from me. Usually at night. As I'm trying to get to sleep. That's when I know a book has taken on a life of it's own. When it begins spontaneously generating, the characters and their story have begun living and breathing in spite of me. But I still don't know what's going to happen. I do sometimes wish I could be a plotter. I'd like to be a faster writer. This driving off into the fog thing isn't the most productive method around and I have a twisted desire to be insanely prolific.

So there you go. Panster? Yep. Plotter? Kinda - from a character arc standpoint. But now, to accommodate my wish to be prolific, it's time to go to work.


  1. First off: Super HUGE congrats on Enemy Within finaling TWICE in the RITAs.

    Now, I'm going to go back to my plot-driven novel and try to make sure my characters are responding to events in ways true to their flaws & strengths.

  2. CONGRATS! I'm so happy for you! :-D

  3. Did she say TWICE?? And way to get a Science-Fiction Romance into the Best First Book Finals. Knock 'em dead baby! Now I'm feeling all insecure about my methods. Your books are full of win and mine suck. Character templates? I could do those, right? Gah...

  4. Yours do NOT suck. Geesh. Are you a plot driven kinda gal or a character driven? If you're plot driven, templates will not do it for you.

  5. Character driven. But I can never answer any of your character questions until I dump them in the situation and see what they do!

  6. CONGRATULATIONS Marcella! Doin' a happy dance in your honor! That's super-cool!

  7. Woo hoo! Happy chicken dance for another Word Whore victory!! Also celebrating with a glass of wine - it's a burden, but I feel it's warranted.

    I like your character driven idea, and am thinking I might take a peek at the templates. Not at all sure I could actually follow them, but I'm always open to new ideas. (shush, those of you who know me well)

  8. Congrats Marcella! I'm so utterly thrilled for you! Can't wait to cheer you on at RWA!

    The template concept is very cool if it works for you. (I've tried a variation of it and it just doesn't work for me at all...but that's true for just about any of the template sorts of methods.)

  9. Congrats again agon your double final! I'll be there, too, to cheer you on at Nationals :)