Thursday, September 24, 2015

Plot or Pants?

They say there are two types of writers: Plotters and Pantsers, and inevitably in their career, a writer will get asked which they are. A plotter outlines every scene before writing- sometimes the whole book before they even start. A pantser creates a character than then just writes, though they may have an idea what direction they're going in.

So which am I?

My response is that of the Queen of Hearts, because this is my blog, and I ask the questions here.

Do you play croquet?

Credit: Disney
The only appropriate answer is "Yes, Your Majesty."

Then let the game begin!


Credit: Devon Rowland

I have wickets. If you've ever played the standard 9 wicket game (there are other versions), you might see where I'm going. The diagram below shows the path the balls travel: start at the bottom, get to the top and return down the other side.





Seems pretty simple, and it is. You work your way along, and when you get the ball through a wicket, you get another turn. 

But anyone who's played knows that's not how it happens. If your ball collides with another player's, the person who initiated that contact has a choice: either take two more hits in the direction they want to go, or take one hit after a knock-off. In a knock-off, the player holds their ball down with their foot and whacks it with the mallet, transferring the energy to the other ball and sending it off in another direction. This can be used by teams to get each other ahead or to knock your opponents off course.

I sort-of outline and I sort-of start writing and see where it leads me. The wickets are my set scenes, the ones that must happen (or even just the things that must happen). Sometimes I even write them out first- they tend to be my favorites, the ones I'm dying to write.

SIDENOTE: Some writers insist on going in order when they write, and there's a definite advantage to this. It keeps you consistent in your story because there's always things that change as you go along. However, jumping around can allow you to write what you are really inspired with at the moment and can help if you are feeling blocked or unenthusiastic. Also, having a future scene set can keep you from getting too side-tracked and help you learn about your characters and how they act under duress... but it can also lock you into a less interesting path.

You can even label your wickets with the parts of a hero's journey: Introduction, Call to action, Crossing the Threshold, First Challenge, Temptation, Setback, Dark Night of the Soul, Final Conflict, Triumphant Return/Continuation. Whatever.

Here's the beauty of my analogy: you don't have to take a direct path. You can take longer to travel between some of them. You can get side-tracked by other characters and you can be rocketed forward by other characters. YOU JUST NEED TO HIT YOUR WICKETS. In order.

Now set your wickets, place your ball, pick up your mallet, and write!

Credit: Disney


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