Some writers begin a new project by creating an in-depth outline, a detailed plan of what will happen in each chapter. They may start and keep a Character Bible right from the outset, where they record all the details about each character, including background, preferences, fears, and quirks. With this information at hand, the conflict and dialogue can be personal and consistent. Some writers are what we call Plotters.
Other writers begin a new book with a blank page and a few ideas floating around in their brains. (Or perhaps a deadline and anxiety). Maybe they’ve seen something or someone who has sparked one idea. They may have dreamed up one scene or imagined one character. These writers dive right in, not necessarily knowing what is going to happen next. They often don’t know all of the characters who will populate their story. Some writers are Pantsers.
Guess which I am.
It wasn’t even difficult, was it?
Every time I begin a new story, I think, “I will plan this one out.” Sometimes I even make a loose outline. And then I actually start putting words on paper. And every single time, the characters literally take over.
I’m still surprised about things that happened in my latest novel, The Lies We Tell. The main character, Amelia already had the seed of a romantic interest planted in the previous book (The Secrets We Keep). I had a vague plan to develop that relationship in Lies. Nope! Perry Gerow just wasn’t doing his job. She needed someone who would challenge her, someone who saw her more clearly. Poor Perry. He got relegated to the friend zone. (Just a little bit of a spoiler).
And where did the Hydra House girls come from? I’m sure I was more shocked than anyone at that twist. It was definitely not in the outline! Honestly, I did not make that stuff up. My mind doesn’t work that way. Part way through the novel writing, I thought to myself, who is Amelia? What is she doing? And Why? Who will she become? I could hardly wait to find out.
I’m wondering if there are Plotters and Pantsers in life as well as in writing. Do you wake up in the morning (or the night before) and make a plan, write a list, have a schedule? Are you able to stay on your set course?
Or do you climb out of bed to see what the day will bring? Maybe you start with one general idea of what you’d like to do or one person you think you should see. Do you often find your life has other ideas. (It has a life of its own?)
Which are you, Plotter or Pantser?