Today the wonderful Christopher Loke talks about his thoughts on Pansters vs. Plotters and I think with this post we'll have a lot of different views after reading his piece! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!!
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Panster vs. Plotter
By Guest Blogger Christopher Loke
The other day I was visiting with a fellow writer, and after talking a bit about her book I asked her what it was about. She proceeded to tell me about her characters and the ending, after which she stopped and said, “I don’t know how everything’s going to turn out, but it’ll get there [the ending]. I’ll work it out somehow.”
“You mean you don’t know what your book is all about yet?” I asked.
“Oh, I do,” she answered. “I know how it’s going to end. I just need to find out what happens between the beginning and the ending.”
I was surprised at her response. “Find out? You mean you don’t have any idea of what’s going to happen? Don’t you have a plot?”
“All I need is just the beginning and the ending, and my characters will show me the way.”
I was baffled at her answer. Shock horror! I know she is not alone in this peculiar habit of writing. Many writers have the idea—though I know not where it comes from—that words are going to come down from the sky, and their characters are going to lead the way. Well, let me say this: there is no such thing as characters “leading the way.” It’s a myth—a popular one at that. But a myth, nonetheless. As such, there is also no such thing as writers block. It’s an excuse we give ourselves to not write, a word of comfort for not churning out results and words on pages.
Imagine a doctor stopping in the middle of a surgery, and saying, “I have surgeons block. This’ll have to wait for another day.” Again, shock horror! My point is, writing to authors should be as professional as surgery to surgeons. Our business is the business of writing, of creating words on paper that act as narratives to stories and worlds without bounds. Our business is about measuring information in meticulous precision; one word too many can cause a sentence to fall apart, alliteration to get messy; it can cause the destruction of the impeccable iambic pentameter. And we balance all this while still trying to tell a story.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are authors who are in the business of perfectionism. And since we are in the business of telling, we must surely understand the concept of knowing. Yes, knowing, or simply understanding. We need to be in control of everything that happens in the book—our characters, our timeline, our purpose. Without that control, we might as well be writing a journal, words that ramble on forever without purpose.
With purpose comes plot. Let me say that last word again: PLOT. It is the framework to your story, the skeleton to the narrative you will write. Without that framework, you have nothing, and it doesn’t matter if you know the ending or not. JK Rowling plotted out the entire Harry Potter series in notes detailing the actions and circumstances of each character good and bad. Look where that took her.
Yes, yes, you are probably thinking, I know people who got published and they are pansters. Well, if you want to believe it, go ahead. But based on my experience as executive editor, I have never seen a good book that did not come with a stable, well-thought plot from start to finish.
As an author, I plotted The Housekeeper’s Son about six weeks before I started writing it. I needed to know who did what. I needed to know what happened in every chapter. I needed to know who said what, and who made who cry—and in my case, I needed to know who killed who. Once I had the plot in place, I knew exactly how to tell the story. I was now free to move chapters and subplots around without losing my place. And by plotting my story, I was also able to craft the most effective way to write it. I was then truly the master of my ship.
There are loonies out there who think writing is a piece of cake so long as they have the beginning and ending. WRONG. While they can churn out stories, I question their quality. I can’t even count the number of times I read a manuscript and gagged because I wasn’t going anywhere three chapters into the book. The narrative rambled on, the stories lackluster.
When all is said and done, my point is loud and clear. I am no panster. I’m a plotter, the engineer of words, the craftsman of stories. And what better honor can there be for an author?
Christopher Loke, executive editor for Jolly Fish Press, has made a splash in the writing world with his powerful and touching novel, The Housekeeper’s Son. This novel explores how far a mother can go for love. The answer? Murder. The Housekeeper’s Son is available as a hardcover and ebook through all major online retailers and a local bookstore near you. Follow Mr. Loke on Twitter and Facebook for updates on his signings and events.