Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Who or The What?

I’m a pantser, which means I write as things pop into my head, rather than plotting everything out in an outline ahead of time. Usually, a character will start talking to me and if I’m smart, I’ll write down what he or she says immediately. If I don’t, either the conversation disappears or continues to scroll through my brain until I finally do write it down (think of a song that gets stuck in your head and you’ll get the idea). All of this means that most of the stories I write are character driven.

However, the current stories I’m writing are plot driven. Yes, I said “stories.” Because right now, I’m in the process of writing three of them. At the same time. If this continues, I may have to become a plotter—I don’t think I can keep three stories straight in my head at the same time. But I digress.

The three stories I’m currently writing are plot driven currently, because what popped into my head were scenes involving something happening.

In the first story, the meeting of the hero and the heroine was the first scene that popped into my head. She’s having a battle with a lawn mower and he comes and helps her conquer it. Just in case you think that he spends the entire book rescuing her, don’t worry. He doesn’t. The next scene that I’ve written, which actually won’t take place until much later in the story, is the hero waking from a nightmare and the heroine comforting him. The inspiration for this story comes from an old house I recently saw. I started wondering about who had lived there during its 140-year-history and have come up with a story about the most modern of the inhabitants.

In the second story, I’m moving onto book two in my Jewish romance series and this story revolves around the story of Passover. It’s not fully fleshed out and I only have one scene—again, a middle scene—the hero is working through an issue and the heroine is helping him. But it is plot driven because the story will revolve around the theme of freedom. Everything that happens to my characters will relate back to that theme in some way or another.

Finally, in my third story, I’m moving into totally different territory. It’s an experiment. The story is based on a mystery in my family that I’ve pieced together involving immigration, infidelity and mysterious family relationships. It’s not a true story, because I have no way of verifying any of the facts anymore—all the people directly involved are long dead. But it’s a “what if” scenario that I’ve been dying to write and hopefully, with a lot of research, I’ll be able to do it.

So tell me, are your stories character or plot driven or both?


  1. I started my three WIPs with characters and a theme, but after writing myself into numerous dead ends, I discovered Syd Fields and Larry Brooks. It is a challenge to rewrite with a belated plot outline, but having the "beats" at the right places will pay off.
    My next novel will be outlined (plotted) before I start. I've learned my lesson.

  2. Sounds like adventurous! I am not good at writing fiction. In fact, I am more a non-fiction person --even the books that I am reading. Learning to be a fiction person as I typed ...

  3. Ana, you always have great trade book suggestions! I'll have to add them to my list.

    Journey of Life, thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Non-fiction books are great, but you should try some more fiction--we have a terrific list of books written by guest bloggers on our site. Try some and let us know how you like them.

  4. I find I can only concentrate on one story at a time, so I'm well impressed about your three different ideas! I don't think I'll ever be a plotter though. I start with a vague idea and explore it to see where it takes me. Different ideas occur to me as I go along and of course, often the characters themselves take over and sometimes lead me up blind alleys! Their characters and personalities develop as I write, too, and I love the way they surprise me at time. My hero in my current WIP has just done that with an incident from his childhood!

  5. I'm finding the three stories keep me from getting bored--I work on whichever one suits my fancy at the time. If they continue (for all I know, one, two or all of them may fall flat), I'll probably have to stick to one to the finish and then move onto the next, etc. But for now, I'm hopping!

  6. I think I have to go with both for me. Sometimes, like you, a line of dialogue pops into my head and I go with it. Other times it's a plot point.

    I used to be a dedicated pantster, but lately I've been jotting down ideas which take an an outline/synopsis format at times.

  7. I become too engrossed in my characters in one story to switch to another - unless I get stuck on one novel, in which case I switch completely to another. So I do have another story half written which I've left to concentrate on the current WIP. I doubt I'll ever become a plotter though!

  8. I enjoyed reading your post. I am in the position of having more than wip going right now, and finding it hard to keep things straight as I too am a panster.