I have explored the subject of plotters vs. pantsers before but I thought of a new spin I could put on it. Building a story vs. building a house . So here goes!
How to build a good story.
You are the author and the architect of anything you write.
Most architects use a plan to design the house and an author uses a plot or an outline to work by. Well, some do and some don’t.
I would not recommend a seat of your pants approach for housing construction. Some rules do apply like building codes. Without building codes, your house won’t stand up for very long. Some rules do apply to writing like good grammar and sentence structure, not to mention spelling.
Without good bones like the above, your story probably won’t stand a chance of being very good. Some people believe that they need a good plot or outline to make the story work.
There are some people in the world who are diehard plotters and wouldn’t dream of going with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the way it works best for them.
However, there are those of us referred to as pantsers wan what y. will Some would call it intuitive writing. These people, myself included, just write and occasionally follow the advice of their muses and the whims of their characters. I like the flow of a story that just writes itself. Sometimes characters pop in to say hello and make demands without even bringing me a coffee. New people show up and try to run the show. I can usually quash those attempted coups,if my muse is on side. I know what you’re thinking. “Good luck with that!”
I recently discovered that a writing buddy of mine claims to be a plantser. She defined this as developing an outline in a premise for her story, along with the list of characters. That’s where the plotting ends. She then goes and writes by the seat of her pants and whatever her characters tell her to.
It sounds like some fence sitting is being done here. Some folks on either side of the fence would pooh-pooh the premise that a writer could be both. At first I would agree with that, but then she told me how she does it and now that I’ve seen it by writing with her, I recognize that it does work. The plantser is laying the foundation of the story and then when the outline is set. The writer can go with the flow. She listens to what the muse suggests while it is holding a gun to his or her head as well as the whims of the characters demanding total economy with the story.
Sometimes you have to rely on your intuition and trust that the story will end itself with good results. An architect must feel the same way when the siding is on and the roof is shingled.
For an interesting exercise, I decided to ply my current work in progress Holmes in America. I kind of cheated because I’ve already gotten the story three quarters of the way written.
I find an outline is easier to do after the story is done , but I wanted to see if I could do it like my friend does. It’s pretty easy, but it took me an hour to put this together and I find quite time-consuming. I would rather just get on with the business of writing the story.
Here is my sample outline.
SAMPLE OUT LINE FOR HOLMES IN AMERICA
SETTING: greater Toronto area.
Kristen Sherlock- detective on suspension, forced to wear uniform and drive a patrol car.
Nigel Holmes – British detective sent to learn how Canadian policing works after being suspended. Kristen Sherlock is his partner and mentor.
Chris Eversley- Kristin’s former partner, a detective with the Toronto police Force and possible love interest for Kristen.
Antagonist: Paul Langley – police detective with the Toronto force. Corrupt and possibly connected to the underworld.
Pat Chambers –former colleague of Langleys who turns on him
Brian Eisner -Langleys business Manager—also turns on him
Frank and Joe—minions of Langley who break into Kristens house
Sharman Davis-ganger leader shoots an initiate and abducts the boys gramma and dad
Dan – Kristin’s 10-year-old precocious son.
Maria – Kristen and Dan’s next-door neighbour and Kristin’s best friend. Has a daughter Dans age.
Mike- one of Kristin’s brothers very protective of her and Dan.
Capt. Taggart- Eversleys supervisor and Kristin’s former supervisor.
Capt. Williams. Kristen and Nigel’s current supervisor.
Damon Weaver -14 yr old gang initiate who attempts to rob a store and gets killed by gang leader
Mrs. Weaver- Damon Weavers grandmother
Shane Roberts-hostage negotiator
Nigel Holmes is an English policeman who was sent to Toronto to learn Canadian policing procedures. Instead of being fired out right, he was sent abroad after committing a breach of procedure which caused someone’s death. He is placed under the wing of Kristen Sherlock, who was stripped of her detectives Badge when someone tried to frame her for drug possession.
trying to bring down a gang member who shot and killed a 14-year-old boy in the commission of a robbery. We also explore the relationship between Kristen Sherlock and Chris Eversley who are former police partners and possible love interest for each other.