Can Pantsers Learn to Plot?
As I sit here once again procrastinating from my book, I’m pondering this question, because the reason I’m procrastinating is that I don’t know what happens next. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if I had this book outlined from stem to stern? Then I wouldn’t have to pause and wonder at my characters’ motives. I’d know their motives, their character arcs, their black moments. I’d have it all mapped out to the nth degree if only I could plot.
Why can’t I plot? Shouldn’t be that hard to learn, right? And in fact I have learned it–more than once. I’ve taken classes on it, sat in on workshops, read books, and copied detailed charts. Once or twice I’ve actually done all the character sheets, figured out my characters’ GMC, and done all my research beforehand. I had this all neatly compiled in a notebook with pictures and an outline.
I didn’t write that book.
I was bored! The book had basically been written. The adventure of discovery was gone. All I needed to do was put words on a page, but I couldn’t make myself bother. Other stories I’ve partially worked out, using the structure from the hero’s journey. That helped me see flaws, but when I sat down to write I didn’t follow that outline either.
Am I undisciplined? A bad writer? I don’t think that’s it (hopefully). I’m a pantser. I discover my characters as I write and as I muse. What are their deepest fears? I couldn’t tell you in chapter one, but I learn them as I go along. What do they value most? What makes them fall in love? Hopefully I’ll have a good idea by chapter five, but if not, maybe I’ll see it when I read through those chapters and make notes on the pages. Or maybe I’ll dream about it now that I’ve lived with those characters long enough. Then I can go back and layer in the details, the nuances.
So I don’t recommend my method. Ultimately it works for me, but I do think plotting would be so much easier…if only I could get myself to do it!