Author Topic: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...  (Read 2748 times)  

Offline valeriec80

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My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« on: February 09, 2014, 07:19:25 PM »
Okay, I bet everyone will tell me that I'm wrong, but here's my theory:

First, a little background on how I formulated this theory. Last night I saw a promo for the new CW show called Star-Crossed, and it made me think of the prologue from Romeo and Juliet. (You know... "from the forth the loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.") And I was thinking about the prologue gives the ending away, (and also that loins is a funny word) but that must not have been much of a surprise, because with Shakespeare's tragedies, you could tell the end of all of them from the title. (In Hamlet, Hamlet dies. In Othello, Othello dies. In King Lear... well, anyway.) And I was also thinking about how there's this appetite for endless remakes of things, which is kind of silly, because I mean, I'm watching the new Carrie, and I already know how it's going to turn out.

Anyway, so that got me thinking about how some stories are enjoyable because you don't know what's going to happen. Like Fight Club. With the ending ruined, that story would have been way less cool. And other stories are enjoyable even if you already know the ending, because you want to know how it happens. Same kind of thing for a remake. I wanted to see how the remake handled the story of Carrie. (And actually, since Shakespeare's plays were all based on well-known stories, maybe that was the allure of them as well.)

So, I started thinking that some stories are what-happens stories and other stories are how-it-happens stories. For instance, twisty turny thrillers are about what happens. But a mystery story is about how it happens, because you know the detective's going to catch the killer. Similarly, romance stories are about how it happens. You know they're going to fall in love.

And I wondered if people who pants tend to enjoy finding out what happens and if people who plot are more likely to enjoy how it happens.

For me, the fun of writing is often the nitty-gritty details. Writing the conversations, the emotional fall out, the punches and the explosions. But I often get sort of annoyed with trying to figure out what happens, like the overarching plot, because that's hard and no fun. So I often like to get the plotting business out of the way so that I can get to the fun stuff.

I wonder, however, for dyed-in-the-wool pantsers, if the whole joy of writing comes from discovering what happens next, and that's why plotting takes all the joy out of writing.

Feel free to rip my theory to shreds, of course, but I thought I'd throw it out there for fun. :)
 

Offline dianasg

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2014, 07:27:37 PM »
Plotter here, and I agree that I fit into this pattern exactly. It's the journey, not the destination, and all that. :D

Knowing the end of a movie or book NEVER makes me want to see/read it less. Sometimes, when I'm watching a movie at home, I'll just google the ending because I can't stand the suspense and it helps me "enjoy the ride" better, haha.

Plus, I find I'm really good at predicting what will happen in a story -- like I usually have a sense, very early, of how things will turn out. So, I'm very rarely watching or reading to find out "what happens" -- I'm usually in it to find out "how it happens."

I'm weird, I know.

But I think this is pretty insightful, Valerie!

ETA: Thinking about this more -- I'm also someone who can watch the same movies, or TV reruns, OVER AND OVER. Case in point: I saw the last Hunger Games movie five times in the theater. I've seen Grey's Anatomy (all 9 seasons) start to finish about 5 times. Lol, so knowing what happens reeeeally doesn't bother me.

Perhaps I am an extreme case.  :-\
« Last Edit: February 09, 2014, 07:32:02 PM by DianaGabriel »

Offline LKRigel

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2014, 07:37:23 PM »
I think you're spot on. And I think that's why some books I could read again and again, and some are a one-time-only pleasure.

As a writer, I've always been caught up in the "what happens next" aspect. I've been stingy with reveals and loathe to hint at events for fear of dropping a spoiler.

And yet ... now I'm just finishing up the last episode in a retelling of a well-loved classic. EVERYBODY knows what happens! I'm finding people enjoy two things about a retelling - seeing how it happens in this version, and also reliving their own idea of the story in the way it knocks against mine. In other words, it's all about the ride, not the destination.

Both are valid focal points, the ride and the destination.

Actually, that might explain why people like genre conventions and get mad when the conventions aren't respected. They want the ride they bought the ticket for.

Offline kwest

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2014, 07:37:43 PM »
Very interesting theory! I'm a little of both, I think. I am 80 percent pantser and 20 percent plotter. I have several landmarks in my head of what I'm writing towards, but those landmarks are ALWAYS subject to change.

For me most of the joy of writing is finding out what happens next, which would be in line with your theory. But with several major points in the arc of my series that I know my characters are going to get to, I often wonder how as well.

Offline Rodeo Host

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2014, 07:39:37 PM »
Interesting theory, Valerie.

When I'm on the receiving end as a reader or TV/movie watcher, I'm totally a "how it happens" kind of person. I drive my husband INSANE because I will read all the spoilers and wiki entries on TV shows/movies, and I've been known to flip to the end of the book while I'm reading it to know the ending. But I always enjoy the journey regardless of whether I know what's going to happen or not. Knowing the end doesn't take one iota away from my enjoyment.

As a pantster writer through and through I should know by now (22 books and counting) that my characters dictate my story as I go along. I can try to plot, but when they make the story come alive they go where they want to go, and they often surprise me. That does make it fun for me. Stressful sometimes because I don't know where I'm going, but as long as I trust that they do, it always seems to work out.

Offline Callie Ray

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2014, 07:41:11 PM »
Another plotter who looks up the ends of movies and reads the last chapters of books. I'm all about the how.
Plotter here, and I agree that I fit into this pattern exactly. It's the journey, not the destination, and all that. :D

Knowing the end of a movie or book NEVER makes me want to see/read it less. Sometimes, when I'm watching a movie at home, I'll just google the ending because I can't stand the suspense and it helps me "enjoy the ride" better, haha.

Plus, I find I'm really good at predicting what will happen in a story -- like I usually have a sense, very early, of how things will turn out. So, I'm very rarely watching or reading to find out "what happens" -- I'm usually in it to find out "how it happens."

I'm weird, I know.

But I think this is pretty insightful, Valerie!

Perhaps I am an extreme case.  :-\

I. Do. This.

If my interest is flagging in a book, I'll flip to the last chapter. If it is compelling, I'll go back to find out how the author got there.

I'm so glad I'm not alone.

Offline dianasg

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2014, 07:56:51 PM »
Another plotter who looks up the ends of movies and reads the last chapters of books. I'm all about the how.
I. Do. This.

If my interest is flagging in a book, I'll flip to the last chapter. If it is compelling, I'll go back to find out how the author got there.

I'm so glad I'm not alone.

*high fives*

 8)

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2014, 09:03:38 PM »
I wonder, however, for dyed-in-the-wool pantsers, if the whole joy of writing comes from discovering what happens next, and that's why plotting takes all the joy out of writing.

I definitely discover what happens next by pantsing my way along. But I don't pants because it would take the joy out of things to outline; I pants because I simply can't figure out what happens next if I'm not actually writing it. It's actually sort of annoying. I wish I could be a plotter.




Offline Kalypso

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2014, 09:16:43 PM »
I panted the first two parts of my current serial. It was so fun discovering as I went along. But as I came to the middle of the last installment, I hit a wall. I thought, "How am I going to tie up all these loose ends?" So... I ended up outlining the rest. It will need a lot of editing to tighten the story. I don't think I'll pants again. While finding what happens is fun, it can lead down a confusing, disjointed path.

Offline Shawn Inmon

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2014, 09:38:53 PM »
I wish I could be a plotter.

I try to be a plotter, because I think I'll be more efficient in my word count, but when I plot, it feels like the characters are acting in certain ways to serve that plot and it feels like my writer's "strings" are showing.

When I get tired of that and finally say "chuck it," (or something similar) then the characters manage to resolve things on their own. Like you, I wish I was a plotter, but it's a battle.

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Offline LBrent

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2014, 09:41:59 PM »
I used to think I was a pantser, but reading this thread makes me feel I'm actually a hybrid pantser (80 %pantser/20%plotter sounds about right).

I have been accosted in bookstores by little old ladies who tell me I shouldn't read the last page of a book. But I'm reading it to find out the "what" so I can better enjoy the "how".

I adore spoilers of all sorts, but they only add to my enjoyment not take away from it. I always tell people that it's impossible to spoil a plot for me. Lol

There are hundreds of movies and books that I enjoy over and over.

When I write, my characters usually take me on their journey. I simply record it. But I usually have a main arc in mind.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2014, 09:47:08 PM by LBrent »

Offline dianasg

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2014, 10:47:56 PM »
As an aside (kind of), I'd love to see a breakdown of planners/pantsers and how-it-happens/what-happens people alongside a Meyers-Briggs breakdown. I'd bet the planners are J-types and the pantsers are P-types!

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2014, 11:07:55 PM »
I try to be a plotter, because I think I'll be more efficient in my word count, but when I plot, it feels like the characters are acting in certain ways to serve that plot and it feels like my writer's "strings" are showing.

When I get tired of that and finally say "chuck it," (or something similar) then the characters manage to resolve things on their own. Like you, I wish I was a plotter, but it's a battle.

Sure is. Pantsing is just so inefficient. I find it to be so, at any rate -- I end up rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Getting my second book done has taken %&*)@#$! forever. My problem with plotting is not characters acting weirdly (I end up with that pantsing, too, LOL). It's more that I stare at my blank outline and can't think of anything to have happen. I can't seem to generate plot outside the act of writing. Apparently, when Morpheus offered me the choice, I took the pantser pill, and now there's no going back!




Offline Jan Thompson

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2014, 11:12:18 PM »
And I wondered if people who pants tend to enjoy finding out what happens and if people who plot are more likely to enjoy how it happens.

I enjoy both! I'm more of an outliner but I also write organically within the framework of the plot. So my plot is what Joseph Finder would call a roadmap.

http://josephfinder.com/writers/tips/outline-or-not

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http://josephfinder.com/writers/tips/outline-or-not
"So my solution and the one Id urge you to try is to do a very rudimentary outline, with just the basic beats (as they say in Hollywood), the basic plot points. Use it as a road map. That way, you know where youre going everyday. But if you come up with a better idea while youre writing if you surprise yourself thats fantastic." - Joseph Finder

Offline Cherise

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2014, 11:24:51 PM »

Actually, that might explain why people like genre conventions and get mad when the conventions aren't respected. They want the ride they bought the ticket for.

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Offline AndreSanThomas

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2014, 11:37:03 PM »
I'm an absolute pantser but I don't think that there's any more to it than that happens to be my writing process.  I feel like I get into the head of my characters, they "speak" to me and I'm the scribe.  When I try to nudge them into things, they push back (and on one occasion stopped talking to me at all for 3 days!), so I need to listen to the story they tell me and write it down.

For the record, I love both what happens stories and how they happen stories, it's just that mine happen by pantsing.
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Offline Perro Callejero

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2014, 12:22:50 AM »
I still haven't written enough to think I've settled into a permanent writing groove, but so far I've mostly pantsed.  Getting sucked into my own imagination, and letting that dictate where the story goes as I'm writing it, is a lot of fun for me... at least, it's fun when things are flowing.  But I tend to spend a lot of time tapping into that flow, and sometimes I feel more immersed than others.

I've been thinking about plotting a story out, to see if it's less laborious for me to do the writing.  Maybe I'll try it soon.

Offline Jos Van Brussel

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2014, 12:57:13 AM »
Perhaps it also depends on the genre? It seems thrillers, with their intricate plots and plenty of twists and turns, require more outlining than other genres. I've tried both outlining and pantsing, but have discovered that for some odd reason my outlining brain and my writing brain seem disconnected. The outlining-me doesn't seem to know what the writing-me is capable of, and therefore I've sometimes spent weeks outlining, only to discover once I started writing, that I couldn't write that story. It just didn't fit my writing chops and sensibilities. And vice versa, once I start writing, I tend to come up with plots and stories that I would never have been able to conceive in the outlining stage.

Offline Greg Strandberg

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2014, 01:15:08 AM »
I've been trying to outline to Blake Snyder's beat sheet, and I get pretty good outlines.  After that I really kind of let loose, but I like to have that direction early.  Plus I like to know where my reversals are coming.  These can come to you when you're working on the fly, and the spontaneous aspect of them is great, but that outline is nice to have.

Really though, I seem to make it then not look at it much except for a reference list when I need a character's last name, a building name, address, or some other small detail I try to have on that cheat sheet.

Offline FireMonkey

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2014, 01:56:16 AM »
I used to plot intensely, to the extent of having a couple of lines detailing events in each and every chapter of my novels before even switching on my computer to write the first draft. It worked very well, but...

... now I only do about a third as much plotting, so that I have a series of major points I know I have to get to in order for the story to flow coherently. Other than that, I have become something of a pantster. I've discovered that new twists and character traits emerge more naturally for me by doing things that way. However, I must always have a beginning, middle and end firmly in my mind before starting the first draft, so the idea that the journey is the key to the enjoyment doesn't quite work for me yet ( as an author, not a reader ). Having an ending makes sure I'm always moving toward that ending, and not wandering aimlessly as I write.

Maybe I'm both a plotter and a pantster now: a plonster...?

Offline lynnfromthesouth

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2014, 02:15:20 AM »
I switch between pantsing and plotting between whatever genre I'm writing, but I have pantsed thrillers. I guess I'm a weirdo. I have a pretty good memory though, so I tend to tie up everything (sometimes without realizing it at first). It's harder for me when switching POVs, especially 3+ POVs, to pants, so that's when I tend to plot.

I definitely have way more fun pantsing. I am setting up my next series in one POV, and in a more episodic style, just so I can pants it.

Offline CraigInOregon

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2014, 02:58:19 AM »
It's a theory and it may work to an extent, but there are always gonna be exceptions, Val. :) Such is life.

Now, I've always been public about saying that I, like Stephen King, am more of a pantser than a plotter. Because better ideas always occur to me as I'm writing, than anything I can encapsulate in a plot.

I mean, one of your main examples of all this was CARRIE.

CARRIE, by Stephen King, was written by a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. Yet you claim the joy in CARRIE is how it happens, not what happens next.

Frankly I think that's a side-effect of multiple movie versions being made, and not a direct effect of the novel King himself wrote.

The style differences between Brian DePalma's CARRIE via the 1970s, versus the Kimberly Pierce version via the 2010s, are matters of director style, not the storyline itself.

King's text remains largely unchanged from when it was first published until today. And he pantsed that plot.

Both DePalma and Pierce took that plot and added their own style to it, but the basic story beats are all the same, because the story was already written by King.

So... I'm not sure the example fits the theory. Comparing movie director styles to book reading is not a plot vs. pants thing.

Although I will say CARRIE had one of King's better endings. (His endings are a weakness, and that sometimes proves to be true of pantsers, though not exclusively.)

But, there are certain books a pantser could never ever write.

A pantser could never write a first paragraph like those John Irving crafted for books like THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

Irving is a dyed-in-the-wool plotter, and it shows because he includes things in his opening paragraphs that a pantser could never promise, because they haven't been through the story yet.

Examples:

Quote
Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater. This was shortly after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and people were being tolerant of soldiers, because suddenly everyone was a soldier, but Jenny Fields was quite firm in her intolerance of the behavior of men in general and soldiers in particular. In the movie theater she had to move three times, but each time the soldier moved closer to her until she was sitting against the musty wall, her view of the newsreel almost blocked by some silly colonnade, and she resolved she would not get up and move again. The soldier moved once more and sat beside her.

Okay, so that's not as impressive as I remember in terms of knowing the WHOLE story beforehand, but this one definitely is:

Quote
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice--not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany. I make no claims to have life in Christ, or with Christ--and certainly not for Christ, which I've heard some zealots claim. I'm not very sophisticated in my knowledge of the Old Testament, and I've not read the New Testament since my Sunday school days, except for those passages that I hear read aloud when I go to church. I'm somewhat more familiar with the passages of the Bible that appear in the Book of Common Prayer; I read my prayer book often, and my Bible only on holy days--the prayer book is so much more orderly.

Look at the promises made to the reader just in the first sentence alone!

1) Owen Meany will have a wrecked voice. (I'm curious already.)
2) Owen Meany is incredibly small, as a person. (Why is that important to know? Curiosity increases.)
3) Owen Meany is the instrument of death for the narrator's mother. (What??? And they remained friends? HUH?)
4) Owen Meany is the reason the narrator has any semblance of faith. (Now THERE'S a mystery... especially given the context of all that other stuff. I'm hooked in.)

I mean... a pantser can kinda do that, but it just doesn't seem likely, if you truly are letting your characters come to life and help determine the direction of the story, better solutions, etc.

At best, a pantser could write a paragraph like that, but only with the provision that he'd have to come back to it later and probably extensively revise it.

But a detailed plotter who knows exactly where he's going? Who knows the whole story before he types a single word? That type of writer could pull off opening paragraphs like that with regularity.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2014, 03:02:25 AM by CraigInTwinCities »
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Offline Greg Strandberg

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2014, 03:07:52 AM »
It's a theory and it may work to an extent, but there are always gonna be exceptions, Val. :) Such is life.



Loved both those books, and gave both of them away.  I remember finishing Owen Meany outside the IFC Mall on Hong Kong Island and I just left it there for whoever it was meant for next.

Offline lynnfromthesouth

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2014, 03:46:25 AM »
A pantser could never write a first paragraph like those John Irving crafted for books like THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

Sure they can. Pantsers don't have to write in order. They also can edit afterward.

I don't even bother writing my first chapter first when I'm plotting. It makes much more sense to me to write that last or close to last.

Offline Jd488

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Re: My Plotting vs. Pantsing theory...
« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2014, 04:04:59 AM »
I'm a pantser, but there is a bit of plotting involved. It fits my philosophy of when things go sideways, embrace the sideways.