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  • Writer's pictureLori Pollard-Johnson

Plotter or Pantser? Which is best for you?

PLOTTING…it’s not just pantsers and plotters anymore

Go to any writer’s conference or any gathering of writers and the question always comes up: Are you a pantser or a plotter?



We writers have struggled with these two methods, maybe even tried both of them from time to time, convinced our job would be easier if we just did the other. We tried sitting down and letting the characters do the talking and the acting (pantser). And we’ve drawn out elaborate story arcs filled with minor and major plot twists, villains, mentors and happy endings (plotter). No one seems completely satisfied with either.


But I think I have a better way.


It’s a hybrid of sorts. It involves plotting major points in a story, and then pantsing between them. Let me explain.


There are five main plot points that are pretty standard in all stories. The first point is who the main character, often called the protagonist, is. This is the character who will become the hero of the story, but isn’t there yet. She has an internal conflict; that is, something that troubles her. It’s a weakness that the villain can and will exploit later in the story. An example is Superman’s Kryptonite.



This main character is now called to resolve a problem.  This is something big, affects a lot of people, and is not in the control of the protagonist. This is the external conflict. An example of this is Lex Luther who threatens to poison the world’s water supply.

Now skip the trials and errors and focus on the high point of tension. This is the final showdown between the hero and the villain. It is the point in the book that a reader shouldn’t be able to put it down. It is the most intense scene. For example, Superman, having been exposed to Kryptonite, battles Lex Luther in his lab where the poison is set to be released by a timed device.


The resolution to this ends the conflict. This means the hero has overcome her internal conflict and defeated the villain. In our example case, Superman kicks the Kryptonite out of the lab and stops the device’s clock. He may also punch Lex Luther and destroy his lab.

The final plot point, and one many writers forget, is the return as a hero. The protagonist must now be recognized as having overcome her internal conflict and vanquished the villain. She is now just a bit better than an ordinary person. In Superman, he humbly accepts the praise, but continues to live quietly as Clark Kent.




If you start by plotting these five points, you have a place to begin and a place to write toward using the pantsing method. That means you always have something to say, and writer’s block will no longer be your kryptonite.


Happy writing!

 

Lori Pollard-Johnson


I'm a storyteller at heart. After retiring from teaching reluctant and eager readers and writers, elementary school-age through college, I've refocused my energy and am spinning yarns once again. I have two novels slated for publication in 2024 through The Wild Rose Press: Corpse in the Craftsman Cottage, a cozy mystery with a female amateur sleuth duo and a backdrop of home flipping; and Toxic Torte, a cozy culinary featuring a sassy young newspaper reporter investigating the murder of a caustic restaurant critic. I also have two mid-grade readers available through Perfection Learning Corporation: The Truth Test and Recipe for a Rebel, and an edgy, Indie-published YA, The Lie. Additionally, I have over 100 publishing credits in short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, in publications as diverse as Vegetarian Journal, Seattle, Black Belt, NW Palate, Palm Springs Life, Bridal Connections and The Binnacle. I recently took first place in short fiction for "What It Takes to Scare a Man," and poetry for "Hope is a Three-Toed Dragon" in a Southern California writing contest. I earned an MA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University and had the pleasure of learning from some of the best, most creative writers in the business. In my spare time, I braid rugs from upcycled materials, watch the javelinas dance through my backyard, hike with my husband, and swim with my beautiful grandchildren.


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7件のコメント


ゲスト
7 days ago

I agree with your writing comments. I too am a hybrid. Susie Black.

いいね!

ゲスト
6月11日

An interesting look at whether you are a plotter or a pantser, thanks, Lori. I find plotting in great detail boring. Once I have the rough outline of a plot in my head, I want to get writing before I lose the impetus. The characters and their interactions carry the plot along and I don’t always quite know how they are going to get to the ending until they do. Your blog made me realise I am a hybrid plotter who plots major points in a story (in my case some not all) and then pantsing between them. Thanks for helping me clarify that, Lori, and thank you too, Samantha for sharing your website with Lori.  Meryl Brown Tobin, romantic…

いいね!
ゲスト
6月11日
返信先

Beautiful! So happy this helped you clarify your writing process. Happy Writing!

Lori Pollard-Johnson

いいね!

ゲスト
6月10日

What a wonderful guideline! Thank you. Looking forward to your books!

いいね!
ゲスト
6月11日
返信先

Awesome! So glad it helped! Happy Writing!

Lori Pollard-Johnson

いいね!

ゲスト
6月09日

Excellent! Food for thought.

いいね!
ゲスト
6月11日
返信先

Wonderful! Happy Writing!

Lori Pollard-Johnson

いいね!
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