Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The pitfalls of being a pantser

So, it's probably time for another post. I've been trying to think of a topic for a while, but nothing's coming to mind. My publisher offered me the chance to guest post on their blog - and I can't think of a topic for that either!

The reason is: I'm working on a story (possibly a short story, probably a novella, maybe a novel), and it was going really well until two of my characters walked off in different directions, and I'm not sure how to get them back together again. For the next part of the story they need to be in the same room, in agreement.

I know this is the curse of being a pantser, instead of a plotter, because if I was the latter the father would not have walked out of the house - he'd have stood in the garden having a sneaky cigarette and his son would have come out to offer him a bottle of cider... (ooh, now I think about it, that might work...)

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes... I suppose having these two characters in completely different places builds the tension. I occasionally conclude a story too quickly, too easily. Most of my tension and conflict is internal due to the nature of who and what I write about. If I plotted, I'd see where that conflict needed to be heightened; I'd have known how to stop the characters walking away from each other.

But whenever I've attempted to plot, I've felt trapped and constrained, In fact, I tend to rebel against the plan at the first chance I get. So I know it's not for me. And equally I know that if I don't have a topic, I can't pluck one out of thin air... hehehe


So, that's my inflated excuse for not posting since last week.
Do you ever find your characters run off and start having ideas of their own too?


50 comments:

  1. I'm also a pantser Annalisa and it's a bizarre feeling when the characters do things unexpected, or in my case, when I first experienced this, when something unexpected happened around them. It's quite interesting to see how they react and deal with it. It's also difficult if you have half an idea about where things were supposed to be going!

    Blogging can be difficult sometimes. I'm finding myself in a bit of a dry spell. I think they happen. You have a great blog and a bunch of followers who love your blog, (Myself included) so I wouldn't worry about it to much.

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    1. Thanks so much for the words of comfort Rebecca - it means a lot that you're one of my first followers, and still comment :-)

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  2. My characters always do whatever they want! I love it, though. I would hate to have such a rigid plot that I couldn't let my characters tell me where the story wants to go. Embrace the pantsing!!

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    1. It's true that you never really know your characters until you begin writing them. I tried to comment on your blog but it wouldn't let me today!

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  3. I'm definitely a pantster too! But I agree sometimes this can lead to so many problems with characters doing the unexpected.

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    1. If they don't do what I want soon the whole story will dissolve into a puddle of mediocrity!

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  4. Is there such a thing as a planning pantser? I think that's how I operate. I have a goal for the chapter, what I want to happen, but how it happens and what evolves is always a bit surprising. Dry spells happen, for sure. May the muse be on your shoulder again soon

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    1. Thanks Julie. It sounds like you have the best of both worlds, and I'm glad it works for you. I might try outlining what I need to happen in the next section and see if it helps :-)

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  5. Yeah, my characters often have ideas of their own, and it can wreck an outline like you wouldn't believe.

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    1. It's nice to know all characters like to escape once in a while!

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  6. I do plot, but sometimes I have to replot because either the characters don't do what I want them to, or I change my mind about how I want the story to go.

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    1. Flexibility is key - I always have the last line in my head (or written down) so I know the end, just not always the path.

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  7. yup!!! the more ideas coming out... the more imaginations, more characters... and sometimes i can't plot anymore.. where my story goes.. its hard to set up when not in focused.

    ..trek..

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    1. This problem is definitely making me think a lot more about the characters and their relationship with each other, which will give the story more depth in the long run. It is hard, though, when you think everything had been sorted.

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  8. You just never know. But ultimately it does pull together and then is brilliant. Good luck and keep roaming about with your characters. You faithful blog readers will indulge you!

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    1. Thanks for being a loyal reader Joanne! And, yes, I've been following these pesky characters all over the place today lol

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  9. Even when you plot, I think your characters should still run off and do unexpected things on their own :)

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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    1. I did plot a novel once, because it spanned 10 years or so, and a whole new character popped up out of the blue. That was interesting :-)

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  10. Yes. I have that happen a lot. And I spend a lot of time staring at walls while I try to figure out how to get everyone back where they're supposed to be. Or how I can work their decisions into the story.

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    1. I end up doing housework while I'm thinking. When my house is spotless, you know I'm having a really hard time :-D

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  11. You know... I'm a pantser/plotter. Does that make sense? Not really, but here's how I deal with being a plotting pantser: I write by the seat of my pants, but I have a very rough outline of where I want things to go. Does this always work? No, but I have a better chance of steering my characters toward my main goal even when they go off on their tangents. :D Good luck!

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    1. A couple of people have replied with the same answer, so you're not alone. It seems like a good way to do it.

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  12. I plan/plot period! At least the beginning and use it as a kind of road map while I get my story up and running. The problem is that as I type new ideas often occur to me so the finished product may not be much like the plot I started with... If that makes sense??

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    1. It makes more sense than you think, Pat :-)

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  13. I have the same problem. If I outline, I never end up sticking with it or I find some snag that I didn't think would be a problem when I outline. Partial outlines work better for me.

    I say...just keep going and you will figure it out.

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    1. It was all going so well - it just hadn't occurred to me that fathers and their sons are bitter rivals in many things! I'm half-way to figuring it out - sharing the problem always helps :-)

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  14. I think if I plotted, I'd just be fooling myself. I have some say on the beauty of the words and I can move stuff around, but I only have so much control over my characters. Good luck!

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  15. I've tried to plot but wind up going off in my own direction anyways. I guess that's why I've come to the conclusion to just not even try to plot anymore, and just see where my characters take me.

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    1. Trying to plot when you're not a plotter is a recipe for disaster - you just end up frustrated, I think. It's probably the same the other way around.

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  16. I start off with an outline and a plan...but once I start, I am the boss. I do whatever I want. And then edit it to make sense later.

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    1. Lol, yes, my edits make sense of my first draft too!

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  17. Not only do my characters do what they please, they refuse to behave when I need them to! "You know I wouldn't say that!" echoes regularly in my ear, and I can often be heard muttering alternative conversations on my morning walk.

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    1. I mutter to myself in the gym - I think people are used to me now... I hope they are, anyway :-)

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  18. If not plotting works for you, why stress it?
    If I didn't plot, my stories would wander out into the desert and never return.

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    1. I'm not so much stressing about plotting vs pantsing as stressing that my characters HAVE walked out into the desert and are showing no interest in turning around and meeting up again :-D

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  19. I do the same thing! It always surprises me to, but I still plan something becasue it's good to have a place to start :)

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    1. It would take away the fun of writing if we couldn't be surprised by it. How would we keep our readers entertained if we can't even entertain ourselves?

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  20. see? talking it out gave you an idea! ask questions, why did you leave? where are you going? what would make you come back? dont you ignore me!

    ahem, and there you are =)

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    1. It really does work, just writing about it and sharing. I love you guys and my blog :-)

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  21. Oh, yes. All of the time. A few recently whispered in my ear they wanted their own chapters. :-O

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    1. And I'm sure you're happy to indulge them :-)

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  22. I find that happens after I've started writing... I'm a planner, but once the writing starts, they always leave behind the plan... but without an outline I couldn't start... go figure.

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    1. It's funny the little techniques we use to get ourselves started - I can't write anything meaningful without a title!

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  23. I love that writing this post gave you an idea for how to make this work.

    I'm a total pantser so I can definitely relate. I'm been trying very hard to turn into a plotter before NaNo, so we'll see how that goes. I'm not optimistic LOL.

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    1. Sometimes just talking about a problem really helps! I think it's hard to turn from pantser to plotter, but good luck trying :-)

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  24. Definitely a plotter. But I do let my characters run amuck once i begin writing the draft.:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. One of my characters turned out to be a serial killer once - that was a shock for me!

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  25. Annalisa, I am writing an outline for the first time for a new manuscript. I don't like the word outline since it feels too stuffy for someone who really understands when you say, 'But whenever I've attempted to plot, I've felt trapped and constrained.'

    What I did, to trick my own mind a little, was write a skeleton. And then I let it dance. (That's the evolving, dynamic part.) So instead of writing outlines, I write dancing skeletons.

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    1. That's perfect, Suze. I'll try to write my own dancing skeleton :-) Good luck with yours!

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Please comment - I love a good chat!