On Writing: The Serial Pantser

IMG_20170715_121628417I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of a hybrid between a pantser and a minute planner. Drawful is a good example of this. Here you can see that I have a scene by scene outline from where I currently am in the novel’s draft to the end. My task over the coming days is to, scene by scene, take my characters on the journey down that path to the completed tale.

The hybrid pantser approach comes in that the outline only states general elements: who’s where and what the result/goal of each scene is. When I sit down to write a scene of, say, Drawful and the Princess Brooke receiving a late night visit from Alistair, I don’t know that Alistair is necessarily going to proposition the Princess as heavily as he does, or how Drawful eventually fleeces 80 gold coins from the Prince. Only that Drawful and Brooke chase the Prince off, win some money from him, and grow closer as a result.

Even with this outline, I still allow scenes to expand and grow.  In the outline above, you might make out an item referencing King Nick hosting King Lando who has arrived at the Alabaster Kingdom. While that’s originally planned as a single episode in the narrative structure, I’ve come up with 4 different parts of the day with Nick hosting Lando of approximately 2,500 words. Rather than dropping that all in as one big King Nick/Lando meatball, I’m going to divvy it up and spread it out.

The same can be said for Brooke and Drawful, while the outline has two scenes for them at brunch and then after a hike together, I decided on an additional scene of them starting on the hike together. This is my preferred approach to any story: have a destination in mind that you move your characters toward in terms of plot and events, but let the landscape in between your starting and ending point reveal itself to you through knowing your characters as living breathing beings on the page.

This means that while full installments of Drawful have been going up here, the final book and story will be structured differently, have better pacing and be cleaned up aplenty. Not to mention, it’ll have full color illustrations (I’m very excited about this fact).

Point of this all is to say that one’s characters are not machines, and we shouldn’t look at them as being stuck on a train track. They should be alive and walking a path you’ve set them on, yes, but don’t be afraid to let them hop off the path to sniff flowers, chase a butterfly, try to identify certain flora, or take a nap in the shade as their personalities dictate.

What matters is that you enjoy the journey, and fill out an entertaining and believable set of characters with their own unique stories getting to that ending.

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