Pantser Plotting–Huh?

(Cross-posted from my entry in Tabby’s Nocturnal Nights)

We all know what GMC stands for. We all use Debra Dixon’s formula in one way shape or form to craft a story. Some writers use elaborate methods to plot a story, to the point of practically writing it before they write the first draft. But today I’m going to explain my pantser’s guide to plotting….

An oxymoron for sure. Since the definition of a pantser is someone who DOES NOT plot.  Anyone who knows me knows I define myself as a tried and true pantser. Most of the time I never know what my next scene will be. I don’t do mind maps; I don’t have bulletin boards with index cards of every action; and I decidedly don’t have an outline. I like to let the story unfold before me as I fill the blank page with words. However, I always know where my story is going and how it will end. And I don’t mean just the HEA at the end…Daring Hero riding off into the sunset with Brave Heroine astride his trusty steed.  I know what had to change in their lives to bring them to this point, how they’d grown as characters (ARC) and I know what they had to overcome to have that HEA.

Okay, now you’re scratching your heads. Trust me I’ve done that more than once myself.  I may not plot a story, but I do learn about my characters. And how I do this is by making sure I have a clear understanding of what makes these people tick. Once I decide on an idea for a story, I usually know who the key players will be—the hero/heroine and antagonist/s. I figure out what their back-stories are. What led these people to find themselves in this story idea? Then I think about where I want them to be at the end of the story.  How do I want them to be different from the characters I’ve created from their pasts? I don’t do character interviews, but I write down everything that I can think of about the character—descriptions, personality, jobs, relationships, what would bring fear to them, what would bring them joy. I figure out what their goals are, what motivates them, and what would bring them conflict and how they might respond to that conflict. I even decide on if they have any quirks in their personalities, and more importantly, why are these quirks important. I do this for every major character. I still have no idea how their stories will enfold, but I do know that I, indeed, have a story.

The only thing left is to figure out how the characters best want to tell it and let them do the talking.


  1. CBlaire says:

    A well-known multi-pubbed author suggests mentally following the main characters through a typical day to *get the feel* of their personality traits. ( a lesson in vivid imagination!) Knowing what makes the main characters tick, before beginning their story fits in with your writing method.
    I like the concept of knowing *where* the story is going and how it will end…both vital pre-story ingredients. This could almost be construed as mini-plotting 🙂

    1. I do that! I often think up senes with my characters, sometimes that’s were a story idea comes from. I’ll get an idea about a character and build the story around them… That’s where The Long Road Home came from. Seth Kendall would not let me alone…LOL Although, NONE of those early “scenes” ever made it into the book. I guess what I do could be construed as plotting, but not in the way most plotters would think of it. I think of it more as character studies.

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