Sitting on the Fence Between Plotting and Pansting
Every once in awhile the question arises in the writer's world: are you a plotter or a panster? This question always brings up so many mixed feelings in me. You see, I've often considered myself a pretty dyed-in-the-wool panster. My characters have lives of their own, and they're very clear on their desire to not let me interfere with that.
Oh, it's not that I don't plot at all. I do. I start each piece with a clear vision of where I want to go, and produce an outline of how to get there. Somehow, some way, the characters always seem to have a way of interfering with my "best laid plans" though. That's when I get a little blurry on the plotting/panster concept. Where does one start and the other begin?
When I first begin a project, I start out determined to not let characters get in the way of my plans again. Oh the glory of what it must be like to be a true plotter. Someone who can outline every detail and really stick to that. For me, my outlines are a basic roadmap. I do demand that my characters obey the signs and signals, and keep to the idea of the story… but when it comes to the nitty gritty of the story, they're in control and they never let me forget that either.
Is Either Plotting or Pansting Really Important?
Obviously plenty of writers do very well on both sides of the coin. It doesn't surprise me to find, though, that many of the writers I talk to find themselves stuck somewhere in the middle of the plotter/panster debate. I think there is a good reason for that--both are pretty important.
You need a roadmap. Simply letting go and following a character wherever that may lead might be a whole lot of fun, but it's dangerous. You could end up meandering for pages and pages, even an entire novel, without actually getting anywhere or saying anything. A basic plot outline can be as simple as a sort of "mission statement." A, this is what I want to say in this novel, type of idea so that you never lose sight of what impact you want to make. Regardless of whether it is a full-out point-by-point plot development, or just a paragraph of intent, it will keep you grounded when your character wants to stop and enjoy the scenery or go charging off into the sunset.
You need emotion and involvement. If you plot, but never get a connection to your characters and see what "they" see, neither will your readers. Pansting is another word for being "in" the character and that's so important. Even the most dedicated plotters have to make that connection if they are going to reach a reader's emotional core.
The Un-Happy Medium
So why are writers so concerned about what side they're on. I think, here too is just my opinion, or perhaps just my reflection on my own feelings toward middle of the roading it: we feel guilty sometimes that we're not more involved with one side or the other. Or that we're doing something wrong. Maybe that's not right at all though. Perhaps being squarely in the middle of the debate is just the right place to be. It's the perfect place to implement both of the benefits of story line creation. I think I like that concept best of all, and from now on when I am asked whether I am a plotter or a panster I will proudly say I sit on the fence!
A long-time novelist and freelance writer, T. L. Parrington (Tami Parrington) enjoys the simple pleasures of working in the garden, swimming at the health club and playing with her dog when she's not pounding away at the keyboard. As a novelist she has several romance, women's fiction and fantasy books available.
Readers can find out more about Tami Parrington's work at her Amazon Page amazon.com/author/tlparrington or her website: http://www.tamiparrington.com
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