I am a pantser.
This means as a writer I write by *the seat of my pants*. I sit at my Mac and literally make stuff up as I go. There is no big plan for where a story is going, it just kind of happens. My editor says my first drafts sound like the story has fallen out of me.
Poor editor. 🙁
I do have an endpoint in my head and a general direction of the story. But if I plan, I am paralyzed because to me the story is written… This happened in What Lies Beneath, which is book 1 in my new Lancaster Falls Series. Part of my issue was that there is a crime running through all three books, and I needed to plot the beats of that, and abruptly I was done with the story. Going back to write the stories themselves was super hard.
As an example – when I start a new story with, say, a teacher as my Hero 1…
I know he’s a teacher. He’s six one, has green eyes, blond hair, and was born in November. He has a sister, a mom, and dad, and lives in New York.
What I don’t know from this… Is he a good teacher? Is he a new teacher? How does he deal with bullying? Is he approachable? Was his mum a teacher? Or his dad? Why is he a teacher? Did he used to teach in a small town, or is he a city guy. These are all questions that I answer for myself as the story continues. When I get to the end it may have been the fact that he was a teacher that made him decide to hide in the closet, or it may be that his stubbornness meant he was a take it or leave it kind of guy.
I always get two thirds through a book and need to go back to chapter two and foreshadow something that wasn’t completely obvious when I started writing my character – because my teacher has grown in directions I didn’t even expect as a writer. I guess this is what people mean when they say their characters talk to them.
I don’t know my characters from word one. So if I don’t know my characters how can I truly plan an entire story based around them?
Take book 7 in the Ellery series – The Agent And The Model. I didn’t know what Mikey was going to be like in Agent/Model. This story is set six years after Barman/SEAL and Mikey is now known as Michael. He’s a model. He was the victim of a hate crime. Does he have PTSD? Has he fully come to terms with it? Do things happen to him that unpick old wounds or does he hide his pain because he is determined not to crack? Will he ever heal? Does he need to heal? Again, I didn’t know until I started writing.
Is that the definition of a pantser?
Authors, are you a plotter or a pantser… And can you be a little of each with a bias to one way or the other?