The Plot Thickens

Evin turned his collar up against the misting evening rain as he left the dark hulk of the stone hall. Across the common, beaten in recent weeks by military drills, he could see two guards huddled near the faint warmth emitted from a recessed torch. He knew their eyes would trace his every step across the open expanse shrouded in its rain soaked early dark. Evin ignored them.

He kept his pace unhurried and his face downcast, losing the distinctive scar on his chin to the shadows of his coat. By the time he was half-way to the outer wall, his hands were trembling. Blood pulsed in his neck with enough force he thought it would choke him.

A turn around the stable toward the western gate blocked the view of the guardsman. Evin took three more steps before breaking out into a run. He hit the locked oak door set deep in the wall at full speed. The old hinges rattled but didn’t budge. Above his pulse, he heard a shout from behind him. Evin threw himself against the door once more, hoping this time the old cross piece would cave in. The sound of footfalls hurrying across the damp ground behind him was faintly audible over the cracking of wood. Evin put his shoulder into caving wood, pressing forward with his full body. And then . . .

I don’t know. That is why I’ve become a plotter instead of a pantser.

When I first started writing novels and short stories, I was a pantser. I was also constantly having to stop to figure out what happened next. This is part of the reason why I think my first novel, Ancient Fragments, took so long to write as I mentioned in my last post. I work 40+ hours a week and have too many activities going on outside the office. I’ve found there is nothing more discouraging for me to have run out of ideas on what happens next. The curser sits before an ocean of emptiness while I watch it.

bleep . . . bleep . . . bleep . . . .

This is not only bad for my psyche, but I also find myself turning off the computer to disappear outside and go hiking! Even with Born of Water, I started off writing it in pantser mode, heading off into the unknown with Niri, Ria, Lavinia and Ty. We all promptly got lost, bored, and stalled. Not an epic start!

This is my fuel for creative writing!

I knew with Born of Water that the four not-quite friends would end up going north when they wanted to go south, but I didn’t know what would send them there. It was when I sat down, knowing I had the makings of a good story but no idea what to do with it, and started figuring out what was going to happen that I became a plotter. I wrote an outline of events, loose enough to allow lots of fun writing but detailed enough to give me a direction. It is a method, honed slightly since then, that I still use.

It really helps me write if I know where I’m heading with my plot. I am excited and that comes through in my writing. When I sit down in front of my computer, I can pick up immediately where I left off with plenty of energy focused in moving forward – not wasted on figuring out what happens next. And seeing the pages adding up helps my motivation as well!

I’ve also found that when I’m put on the spot getting to know my character and wandering about with an open ended plot while trying to write a novel, I tend to remain in familiar fantasy territory. This is true with characters, settings, and themes. Even with the story started about, I slipped back into another theme and time started in my short story “All is Lantern Light” (well it is related to the full plot of which “All is Lantern Light” is just a piece!). It is only when I take the time to write down an outline of where the story is heading that I can question where a character is from and why they act a certain way. I find the time to build originality and separate out what needs to be pushed further. Not to mention being able to hint at and tie up sub-plots. Being a plotter makes me a more original writer. Who’d have thought an outline would have that result?

The thing is though, I am still a pantser in first developing a story. Ideas sprout in my mind and I let them grow untended, moving along with them as they develop. If I think an idea has some potential, I hit rewind and run through it again. Then again. Then I play with a few additions or variations. Eventually when I feel pretty excited about the whole theme, I write down a framework including action sequences, lines I don’t want to forget, and potential points of view. Then I take the time to flesh out info on characters and places. I have several potential novels in this state with the notes serving as a personal short hand to the daydream version in my mind.

So after having time to ponder it, what about Evin? Geee . . . I don’t think he is going to make it out without help . . . . That gets me thinking! 🙂