Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Characters that Lead You

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net
Some blogs I've read have said that even though you're a pantster, you should plan your plot - even download plotting software to make a note of not only plot, but the emotional, physical and spiritual process of your characters as well as every scene of the book. Sounds marvelous and very commendable.

My rebellious streak didn't like the idea. To me, it's like asking an abstract artist to paint realistic paintings. Or a classical musician to play heavy metal with feeling.

Ravings aside, I admit that I do plan, especially when I'm starting a new book - I need that overview of the general conflict, romance and character arc. But it's all in my head, not on paper or computer. The character arc is the learning curve that your hero and/or heroine travel along where a part of their character that prevents them from experiencing true love to the full, is overcome and changed for the better.

My best planning and plotting moments are when I'm washing the dishes. Not very romantic or exciting - maybe it's because I spend quite a bit of time doing it, and it's such a mind-numbing activity, that I have to think of something while I'm doing it. So I usually plan the where to from here. But, usually the characters lead me on what to write next. I try to think what my character would do in the situation and whether the next move will flow with the arc that they are taking in the book. Staying true to my characters has helped me get through those terrible blocks found in the middle of a book. I suppose the only thing I need to know is the ending. And so do the readers - they need to sense it all through the book.

But even your characters can surprise you sometimes - sometimes they make a rash decision or buckle under the pressure. That's what makes them more human.

I would have to say that staying a partial panster, although strongly advised against, has proven to be the only way I can reach that ending, one tentative step at a time.

Are you a pantster, plotter or a balance between the two? How do you let your characters lead you even if you're a plotter? I must admit, in a way I envy those people who have their whole book plotted out and organised before they sit down to write - it must take away much anxiety. Maybe I'm just an adrenalin junky.