The Problem with Pantsing

I’m going to assume that “pantsing” is a word. I think, for those of you who write, it is pretty much self-explanatory.  I am a pantser, therefore, I pants.  I am pantsing.  I have pantsed.  Just treat it like any other verb and go with it.

And the reason for the discussion of the conjugation of the verb “to pants”, you ask. Or you probably don’t. God knows, you’re all used to RomanceMama going off on whatever bizarre tangent, so you’re probably like, “Shut up and post the hot guy’s picture.”  But this is important.

I pants.  I don’t do a whole lot of the outlining and re-outlining that I probably should. I just wanna get in there and write my story, and plotting gets in the way of that, for me. And it usually all works out very nicely.  My last ms was lovely writing. I sat down and my heroine, helped by the hero in places, more or less dictated the whole story.  She was a chatty, snarky little piece of work, and oh, how it flowed.

But my heroine in this one is a much different character. She is very quiet and deep in the book, and it affects the writing. She just isn’t as forthcoming  about what happens. I know the major plot points, how the story unfolds and how it ends, but she is less into the details.  Right now there is a big party and she just wants to stay in her room. I’m having to tempt her out with promises of the big love scene with the hero.

Ok, you are saying: RomanceMama, this is too weird. Take yourself and these people in your head over to the State Hospital and check yourself in, cause  to paraphrase Hermione, people in your head isn’t good, even in the wizarding world. But stick with me here. It is all good.

I think we pantsers, at least the “my characters tell me what to write” variety, get so into the imaginary world that it unfolds more or less like a movie.  See, I do my writing in two parts. There is the lying in bed half-awake or in the tub soaking or even driving, where the story occurs to me, and then there is just the sitting at the keyboard typing it up. 

And the way the movie unfolds is directly related, for me, on the character showing it to me. It is like having different directors, to go with the movie analogy. My last ms was an Ang Lee, very straightforward, tell the story, make it look good.  This one is more like an indie film,  with hidden meanings you have to think about for a while.  You can’t go get popcorn in the middle.

And this dependence on the characters and how they want to tell the story is the problem with pantsing. You have to let your characters live. They have to be so real you can see them, talk to them, know them.  That isn’t easy. But if you can make them so real that your reader can know them, then you have done it. That is what you are looking for.

Have I gotten there?  Probably not, but I have a few places where I can read it and say, yep, that’s her, she’s real. Or he is.  A few times when I really am able to show you my friends from my head.  And more than trying to get published, or win a contest, or get an agent or any of the goals we set, that is why I write. I have to make my people real.

Ok, now I’ll shut up and post the hot guy’s picture.  The inspiration for Martyn, the hero in my current WIP, the ever-popular, ever-hot, Mr. Gerard Butler:

And y’all, I’m tweetin!  Check me out on twitter — Donnalu60!!! (and no, that is not how old I am!!!!)


6 Responses

  1. I swear, it’s like you’re reading my mind! 😉 First of all, Gerard Butler…mmm good!

    Pantsing…I am a Pantser. If my characters are being antisocial, I’m not writing. That’s just how it goes, but I can’t sit down and plot a book. I’m sorry, I can’t! OKay, I probably could, but I’m with you, I just want to jump in the story with both feet. If I drown, well…it’s been a good life. *cough* 🙂

  2. Wow, I’m the oddball! As much of a carefree person as I am I’m a plotter. I know, surprising but I write the whole book out before I begin typing. Now I give my characters free reign when it comes to dialogue as long as it flows with then end outcome that I want. I add and remove characters as my “writing voice” tells me too but for the most part I like to have a notebook where I write down all my plotting. When I get stuck I go to it and write the entire scene out before I type it. Well, anyway sorry about the no cowboy yesterday. Getting a fresh one lined up today.

  3. I don’t know what the heck I am then! (laughing) I have what I call “lightening strikes”. That OMG epiphany moment where you recognize the entire story that’s been fermenting in your mind. But logically I know that XYZ has to occur to get from the beginning to a satisfactory conclusion, and worried I might omit a necessary step in the process, ( okay, honesty being everything, considering my age and mileage, what I might forget!), I hurry to jot it down as I saw it in my head just to make sure I get it all in–or get rid of what doesn’t really belong. But my characters have free rein in reaching each progressive level. And, oh, do some of them surprise me in how they drive the story! But I’ve found there is one perk to the process: it’s almost the synopsis! Ack! Hack! Patooey! That “S” word always tastes so nasty!

  4. This is not a pic of Gerard Butler, by the way. I’d know my Gerry anywhere 🙂 While strikingly similar in this photo, it is however English actor Clive Owen.

  5. RE: Ok, now I’ll shut up and post the hot guy’s picture. The inspiration for Martyn, the hero in my current WIP, the ever-popular, ever-hot, Mr. Gerard Butler:

    It appears you’ve actually posted a picture of Clive Owen rather than the ever-hot Gerry Butler! Just thought I’d mention it. 🙂

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