Plotter or Pantser? It’s Starting Already

Posted: April 3, 2014 by writingsprint in Dubrillion Burning, Science fiction
Tags: , , , ,

Okay, so what next? A scene with our villain? A scene where the heroes continue to gather? I originally leaned toward a scene with the villain. We saw a nuclear bomb going off, but we haven’t seen the eyes behind the darkness yet. Thinking about the structure of the story so far, though, I think it’s too soon to break rhythm. The nuke goes off, Merritt calls for help, Raffa and Risha call for help and get nowhere. The next step is that we see them starting to get help.

remote space port

“Remote Space Port” by MacRebisz at deviantART

Raffa arranged to have someone else take their cargo to Alderaan. Raff shook his head as the crates were wheeled off the ship. That was a good, easy 5,000 credits, plus expenses, not to mention a week or two on one of the prettiest planets in the galaxy. And if Cedonia Teraan happened to be single these days, he might have even gotten a date out of it. He’d helped her family with some discreet work a few years before. There had been fringe benefits.

Instead of thoughts of romance and pleasant summers, they dusted off from Lan Dur with an extra supply of weapons, medical packs, field rations and armor repair kits. Corso and Bowdaar, the ship’s second mechanic, ran maintenance checks on the Comet’s primary systems, including her guns.

In the meantime, Risha managed to contact one of their two friends in the Empire. Jeana Lysset, the Emperor’s Wrath, was at home on Ashalon. She promised to wrap up her affairs there and leave immediately. There was no response from Cartog Dalledos, other than that the message had been transmitted. They expected that. Cartog was a former agent with Imperial Intelligence. You didn’t find Cartog; he found you. Transmissions were impossible once they jumped into hyperspace, so they hoped for the best. Jeana had said she would try to contact Cartog as well.

It took them three days to get to their rendezvous. Alderaan would have been just a twelve-hour jump from Lan Dur, but now they had to travel to deep space near the Hutt worlds. There wasn’t a route that ran near the area. The crew kept loose as best they could. When he wasn’t oiling his guns, which did relax him, Corso spent more time playing guitar. Bowdaar sang Wookiiee peace music – it was oddly melodic if you could handle the volume, sort of like wolf howls. Bowdaar toned it down for everyone else’s benefit. Risha tried to read some poetry books, but usually she stopped and kept thinking about the rebellion. Raffa watched old cinema on holo, without really seeing what he was watching. He was thinking about old debts, friendly faces, and how much help they could expect to get.

Hubble M45

Hubble image of the Pleiades

Man. I forgot about what it’s like trying to write these things off the top of your head. You get one idea, follow it as far as you can, then you get another idea pulling you in another direction. It’s a zoo in here.

When I started this I also started reading a book with insights on plot from about twenty different authors. It seems evenly split between the “plotters” and the “pantsers,” people who outline the entire plot ahead of time and people who fly by the seat of their pants. The pantsers are quick to point out that they’re not as disorganized as they seem, and the plotters say that their outlines are flexible. I may be a loose plotter. I’d love to be a pantser, but I can’t go by the seat of my pants until I know where I’m going in the first place. Once I’m there, things start springing up and I can play with it.

It may be that my plotting side comes out more when there’s more at stake – this scene needs to be “whatever,” so how do I make that happen. The Daily 400 is a very pants-y exercise, after all. I need to remember to just play with it sometimes. It’s too easy for me to get all serious about this and forget to have fun.

  1. A.D. Everard says:

    I like how this one panned out. It had enough detail to be gripping on a technical level (their gear and technology), bringing the reader into the scene, and later, that sense that they were all trying to let go and relax but really couldn’t. Again, it brings the reader right in.

    Interesting what you say about plotters and pantsers. I had not really thought about it. Certainly I can’t just start a story and go anywhere with it, but nor can I plot out everything ahead of time.

    I think loosely I’m a plotter. I know where I’m going and I usually set up a sequence of main events that I must then string together, including the ending. That stringing together, however, is very much by the seat of my pants. It’s during the stringing together phase that I bump into problems that need ingenuity-on-the-wing.

    So, I guess I’m a plotter-pantser.

    Now you’ve got me wanting to say that (with a straight face – essential) next time someone asks me what I do. “Oh, I’m a plotter-pantser,” as though they should know what that is – then walk off without explaining.



    • LOL, I would love to see that!

      Thanks for the feedback on the scene. I was afraid it was too dry. Giving the tech some personality or making it approachable does bring the reader in — I hadn’t thought of that.

      What you said about your process reminds me of that post you did on filling in the gaps. Some of the most important parts of the story happen in there. It’s amazing what happens when you let the characters tell you how it comes together.

      At this point I’m too new to being a “serious” writer to know whether I’m one or the other. When I try to plot everything, my mind refuses to be contained. When I go by the seat of my pants, I ramble from all the cool stuff I want to put on the page. We’re all plotters during the rewrite stage, that’s for sure, and we’re all pantsers when we brainstorm.


      • A.D. Everard says:

        I think you’ve summed it up perfectly. It doesn’t really matter what it’s called, anyway, so long as you’re doing something.

        Oh, and you’ve been a “serious” writer from the first day you chose not to put down the pen.

        As for details, personally I love technical stuff. Here an “easy” write would have been, “They stowed the supplies”. Instead you’ve got loaded an “extra supply of weapons, medical packs, field rations and armor repair kits.”

        Now I might not know what those things are (I do, of course, but that’s not the point), but first up, this sentence tell me that YOU do. It says you know what you’re talking about and these things are going to be important. Of course, they might never be mentioned again, but that’s not important either.

        If you had just “stowed the supplies”, that wouldn’t mean much, it’s a bunch of packages and why should I care. BUT: “Medical supplies”, there’s going to be blood and they know they’re going to take casualties. “Field rations”, there’s going to be fighting on the ground. “Armor repair kits”, OMG there’s going to be HEAVY fighting.

        These things excite me. Those packages have suddenly become precious. You did that with six words. THAT’S writing.


      • Ah, fair enough. That was a fun little line to write. Originally they didn’t pick up anything at all. They dropped their old cargo and left. Then I thought, no, they’re heading into a rebellion, they should get other stuff they do need. Like you, I wanted to know what it was! First I thought of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix: “Guns. Lots of guns.” I rolled my eyes when I started there. They already have their own guns! So I just said “weapons,” not being sure what the new stuff will look like yet. Maybe heavier weapons. What’ll they need after the battle? Medical packs. And while amateurs think firepower wins wars, professionals know it’s logistics, so make sure they have food and can repair their armor, too.


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