Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

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Aimée
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by Aimée » August 2nd, 2011, 10:34 pm

wilderness wrote: Saturday evening: Husband goes out on the town. Stay home to stare at blank screen. Force self to begin writing. Write until stuck. Know where the scene should go but not how to get there.

Sunday morning: In the shower, muse hits. 40 minutes of wasting water later, begin scribbling furiously in journal. Lose 50% of ideas due to no longer being wet. Realize 3rd draft will involve major rewrites, but it shall be BRILLIANT. Am angsty GENIUS.
This is great, and I can so relate, even though I'm not much of a pantser. All my projects have started out with me telling myself I will write off the edge of my seat this time, but that has never happened even once because my muse usually goes insane with ideas at around 5000 words, and I begin to plan everything out. This is where the "know where the scene should go but not how to get there" part of my planning kicks in and I get stuck and can't write anything. I wish I could just pants right along!

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Watcher55
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by Watcher55 » August 3rd, 2011, 5:15 pm

MattLarkin wrote:I loved B5, but only watched commentary on a few of the episodes. Suppose I should watch more commentaries, then.

Edit: Actually, Watcher, can you post to expand a bit on how you write-up story arcs? I'm curious to hear more about what works for others in this regard.
I hope you don’t think I’ve been ignoring your request; only understand that, unless I’m being silly (or ranting about nothing) I read and write more slowly than most of the talent on this board. I did reach a speed of one finished page and hour one time, but I nearly passed out from the g-force. I do want to respond so - the unpolished version:

Being a died in the wool pantser, I don’t write out story arcs so much as compose and collect possible episodes that may or may not belong in the finished work based on a memory device I’ve developed for myself and I'm happy to share it with you.

Story line. Story arc. When you cross a bridge you usually remain inside the straight line distance. How often have you wondered how interesting it would be to fearlessly walk on the arches or the fat cables you see on suspension bridges (Why did Robin Williams tell his class to stand on their chairs in Dead Poets Society)?

Whether the beam of cable, or whatever, forms a series of smooth arches or repeatedly climbs into the sky, peaks, then dives toward the Earth, you are granted a perspective the fearful will never have unless you can convince them to follow you.

OK, now that I have you on the cable, look at the little suspension cables under you feet and across from you. Those of course, hold the bridge up. Now, as strong as they are and as solid as they appear, they are in constant motion. They vibrate and sway. They sing and dance according to the episodic moods of Nature and Man.

By now I hope you have a picture of at least two bridges in your head (hopefully one of them is impossible to build from concrete and steel), because the suspension bridge is (for me any way) a useful - aw hell, I can’t remember the word for a graphic mneumonic - but that. It’s a memory device. The bridge as a whole is the story’s structure. I’ve already mentioned that the flat part is the story line, but it’s not the magnificence of the bridge. The arches and peaks are the ordered elements of THIS good story - rising action fall…cohesive grammar convention…POV - all the stuff I think should be trusted mostly to instinct until it’s time to revise and edit.

The suspension cables are the characters. Be careful to understand y’all - when I talk about “character” I’m including setting, mood, social contexts and Nature itself. remember, you’re still walking the arc, watching the cables make music (it's all about perspective). This is where you say to yourself: I’m going to make those cables sing and dance for me.

When you started out, you were on one side of a divide that separated here from there; the beginning of your story from the end of your story. It’s your bridge; play it like a harp. If the harp is well crafted, and the strings you've stretched are well tuned, the music will draw an audience.

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MattLarkin
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by MattLarkin » August 4th, 2011, 8:38 am

Watcher55 wrote:How often have you wondered how interesting it would be to fearlessly walk on the arches or the fat cables you see on suspension bridges (Why did Robin Williams tell his class to stand on their chairs in Dead Poets Society)?
I have never even considered doing so!

So, if I'm understanding correctly, as a pantster, rather than plan out character arcs, you envision the story as bridge. And (because of the cables), it's meant to take the reader through a rollercoaster of ups and downs. That sounds like something most good stories do. Perhaps I'm not totally following you, but if the characters are the cables holding the main cable, they don't have arcs themselves, they just support the arcs of the story?

The metaphor is interesting, for certain. Envisioning this helps you keep your story on track?
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Watcher55
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by Watcher55 » August 4th, 2011, 3:41 pm

MattLarkin wrote:
Watcher55 wrote:How often have you wondered how interesting it would be to fearlessly walk on the arches or the fat cables you see on suspension bridges (Why did Robin Williams tell his class to stand on their chairs in Dead Poets Society)?
I have never even considered doing so!

So, if I'm understanding correctly, as a pantster, rather than plan out character arcs, you envision the story as bridge. And (because of the cables), it's meant to take the reader through a rollercoaster of ups and downs. That sounds like something most good stories do. Perhaps I'm not totally following you, but if the characters are the cables holding the main cable, they don't have arcs themselves, they just support the arcs of the story?

The metaphor is interesting, for certain. Envisioning this helps you keep your story on track?
OK, first things first, then I’ll talk about how I build the “bridge.” The cables (characters) don’t support the arc; they define it. The cables are like tethers that hold the bridge (story line) in place without actually making it rigid. It’s important that you understand that, otherwise the rest won’t make any sense.

I start with a story line - actually a line segment with the beginning and the end serving as the end points. This is the bridge itself. If I were an outliner, I might start with this:

Boy (beginning)



Boy proves his love and devotion to Girl. (end-ish)

As a pantser, I write A beginning that introduces Boy and how he’s just minding his own business when all of a sudden… That’s where I stop and set that character and his satellite characters aside.

The end is a little different because I work more on blocking and setting than on major character development. Maybe a scenario where Boy hands over the reins of Girl’s father’s company to Girl and they go on to develop the first sub-space transceiver.

So - now all I have “on paper” is two parts of A story. The next part’s all in my head. Yeah - it stays there quite nicely, because all I’m doing is identifying points along the story line:

Boy (beginning)



Boy meets girl

Boy gets his butt kicked by Girl’s psycho ex-girlfriend

Boy gets revenge on PXG, but makes Girl doubt him.


PXG frames Boy for killing Girl’s father

PXG’s hired assassin has his own plans


Boy proves his love and devotion to Girl (end-ish)

(Note the irregular line spacing. there is no such thing as chapter numbers at this point.)

Now I can roll up my sleeves and start developing characters (cables - tethers). I might start by writing the part about Boy meets Girl, but I probably won’t. What usually happens is that I sit down with a paper and pencil and start writing until I figure out I’m writing the part where PXG is approaching the assassin for the first time. It doesn’t matter what I write first (there is a logical reason why I’d start with PXG, so watch for it). What does matter is that after I’ve written a large enough collection of raw chapters that belong on the story line, I put them in order and write from one to the next. From this point forward, audience and internal precedent dictate the rules, because if they don’t, the character arcs won’t fit (thought I forgot about character arcs didn’t you?). I look at each character as a little bridge - that is to say, PXG has a story outside the pages, perhaps I chose to start with PXG meeting with the assassin because, while it’s not the first time she appears in the final story, it does provide a good place to ground her because she has history with the assassin (outside the pages). Her (and the assassin’s) imaginary arc has to harmonize with the main arc and she has to grow into it.

Here’s how it comes together - the bridge (story line) rocks and sways, and when things are really bad, it might even wave (if it breaks there's something wrong with the cables). In any case, it sets the tempo. The cables (the chapters and characters - i.e. people, places, external forces - ) sing and dance and hold the bridge above the abyss. The music streams only as far as the arc (the written story), so that’s the only place the audience can hear it.

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meganstirler
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by meganstirler » August 4th, 2011, 6:16 pm

I'm a pantser for sure, but I do plan out in my head as I go about my non-writing business. I got a lot of work on connecting the easy scenes done while commuting or bathing the baby. But I recently found a series of blog posts form Jim Butcher (the Dresden FIles and the Codex Alera) that described how he builds a story. If you've ever read Butcher, you'll know that his stories are hella complicated with tons of engaging side characters and plot arcs that last for books and books. I have been very impressed with how thoroughly his plots and sub-plots connect and that is definitely the mark of a planner. Anyway, super interesting craft reading, whether you like him or not.

http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/
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MattLarkin
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by MattLarkin » August 5th, 2011, 8:16 am

Thanks Watcher! That gets the idea more clear in my mind. Surprising to see a self-proclaimed pantster does not always write the story in linear fashion.

As an outliner myself, I can see some similarities to my method, but for the most part it looks radically different. The idea of a visual metaphor to keep your story straight is fascinating, especially because it is so different from how I would normally work.
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washingtonwriter1968
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by washingtonwriter1968 » August 5th, 2011, 11:31 am

Watcher,
Your description proves where I stand in this issue! I am definitely a Pantser. what you describe is exactly how I have approached this book of mine. Funny how I am not supposed to be a preciever but a planner ( MTIB personality- sorter wise) and yet when it comes to my writing I am a pantser. :lol: :lol: :lol:

The bridge analogy really works for me. I have jumped all over the place to different parts of my WIP. But I began with a beginning and the end! In fact for this current work.... I began with the end! Weird I know but that is were it started!
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Thx 4 your time
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Watcher55
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by Watcher55 » August 5th, 2011, 11:52 am

MattLarkin wrote:Thanks Watcher! That gets the idea more clear in my mind. Surprising to see a self-proclaimed pantster does not always write the story in linear fashion.

As an outliner myself, I can see some similarities to my method, but for the most part it looks radically different. The idea of a visual metaphor to keep your story straight is fascinating, especially because it is so different from how I would normally work.
My pleasure. It was fun.
washingtonwriter1968 wrote:Watcher,
Your description proves where I stand in this issue! I am definitely a Pantser. what you describe is exactly how I have approached this book of mine. Funny how I am not supposed to be a preciever but a planner ( MTIB personality- sorter wise) and yet when it comes to my writing I am a pantser. :lol: :lol: :lol:

The bridge analogy really works for me. I have jumped all over the place to different parts of my WIP. But I began with a beginning and the end! In fact for this current work.... I began with the end! Weird I know but that is were it started!
Similar duality: IRL I plan my day, I plan my work, I plan my play. My stories on the other hand, always seem to have plans for me.

Beginning at the end is cool cause that means you have to think like an Historian. >:}

(that's right I said "an").

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Ishta
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by Ishta » August 6th, 2011, 12:39 am

This is all a fascinating discussion.

First, to Cookie and the others who discussed grease pencils and waterproof notepads, thank you for the invaluable ideas! I get all my ideas in the shower, but never thought that someone might have actually invented waterproof paper so I could write them down. Ingenious.

Watcher, I find your method fascinating. I've never used a bridge as a device, but I do try to have a mental idea of where the story is generally going to go, and I do try to develop a rudimentary outline somewhere while writing the first ten chapters (which are not actually the first ten chapters of the book, but the first ten chapters that I write - usually the first one, the last one, and a few in the middle).

When I find myself wanting to deviate from the outline, I do so, in italics, on another page. Then when I finish enough of the draft to know which version is better, I cut the extraneous version or versions (or move them to a separate document - my virtual "cutting room floor"). Watcher's comment about eventually needing to be the one in charge of the story is a true one; you can write as many versions as you want, and any number is fine, as long as at some stage, you decide which one tells the story in the best way possible and eliminate everything else. It's so important to resist falling in love with all your wonderful words, and to keep the clear goal of telling a good story and telling it well.

One thing that I always do quite early in the process is get to know my characters - I do a lot of character work ahead of writing beyond the beginning scene. I write multiple-page character descriptions for each character with motivations, history, how they know each other, etc. When writing, I refer to these pages more than to anything else.

I think we need to coin a new term: "Plantser."

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wilderness
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by wilderness » August 7th, 2011, 4:47 pm

Aimée wrote: I wish I could just pants right along!
Haha, the grass is always greener!

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polymath
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by polymath » August 7th, 2011, 5:04 pm

Ishta wrote:I think we need to coin a new term: "Plantser."
Good term plantser. Gave me a new term to contemplate for my own benefit that melds planner and plantser: Sower, as ye sow, so shall ye reap.
Spread the love of written word.

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Ishta
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Re: Here we go again--planners plus pantsers=?

Post by Ishta » August 9th, 2011, 1:57 am

polymath wrote:
Ishta wrote:I think we need to coin a new term: "Plantser."
Good term plantser. Gave me a new term to contemplate for my own benefit that melds planner and plantser: Sower, as ye sow, so shall ye reap.
I like that chain of thought, Polymath! May we ALL reap what we sow here in the Bransforums!

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