Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To Plot or Not to Plot

By Shay MacLean

This is one of the most commonly asked questions for an author. According to Merriam-Webster a plotter is:

1. one that plots: as a : a person who schemes or conspires b : a contriver of a literary plot.

A pantser, although the definition isn’t in Merriam-Websters, is one who writes by the seat of their pants. In other words, doesn’t follow a plotted out story. I’ve seen many debates crop up on the various writing forums I’m a member of and the answers that have been given are as numerous as the stars. What might work for one author won’t necessarily work for another and vice versa.

For me, when I get the spark of an idea, I try to write down as much about the characters and situations they’ll face as I can, which means whatever my muse is willing to let me know (which isn’t always much). Once I have that down, I try to plot out the first couple of chapters (occasionally even writing a scene or two). Not a detailed outline, mind you. Mainly, because my characters like to take over and lead the story where they think it should go. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

In the case of my current release, “Branded Hearts”, from Sizzler Editions, this happened quite often. I didn’t try to force the story back to the original plotline that I’d come up with though, because it really worked. What began as a story about total strangers meeting for the first-time, became one of two people who knew each other as they were at the brink of beginning their adult lives. Circumstances stemming from their teen years kept them apart and they didn’t see each other for several years.

Sparks fly between them from the very beginning and the heat is only elevated when his lover is thrown into the mix (another thing I hadn’t originally planned), making for some very hot scenes. They both have to overcome their demons of the past to be able to find their way to each other.

So ultimately, it’s a matter of trial and error on the author’s part to find the formula that works best for them. I have discovered I’m one of the hybrids, because I use both plotting and pantsing in my formula. This might not work for you. I fully believe that allowing my characters the freedom to let me know when their story should be going in a different direction than the path I set them on only makes my writing stronger.

Why does this work? In my opinion, (and at the risk of sounding totally crazy, because I’m admitting that my characters talk to me) it works, because this is their story. Who else would know better how it should be told?

I look forward to sharing “Branded Hearts” with you. I hope that when you read it, you’ll fall in love with these very complex heroines and hero. I know I did.

Editor's Note: This book was not only a hot read but a pretty intense one at that. You can find Branded Hearts at Amazon by clicking here

1 comment:

  1. I suppose I'm a pantser, in all my books when I started had no idea where it was going and I just trailed after them. The element of surprise is still there within me and all I do is follow. Did that with my two Sizzler books, all I do is follow, the stories will get you there.
    Lambda Literary Awards Winner 2009/Bisexual Fiction