Plotting 4 Pantsers – Part I

There are “outliners” or “plotters” in fiction writing. And then, there are “pantsers.” Plotters/outliners write out the essence of every scene and chapter before they write the first sentence. Pantsers, on the other hand, may have anywhere from a general idea to an informal “outline” of a few plot points they’d like to have in their story. They sit down at their keyboard, and it just sort of “flows” out. Many of us fiction writers are a combination. I figure I’m about 30% plotter and 70% pantser. I must know what story I’m going to tell and have a few general plot points to get the story where I want it to go. But how it gets there is all the fun. Are you a plotter or a pantser? #amwriting #plotting4pantsers @donnalhsmith @a3writers Tweetable

The first thing we pantsers need to do is to make sure we don’t break promises to our reader.

Breaking Promises

Here are some of the ways you can break promises to readers:

  • Indicate (by the context, description, or number of words) that something will be important, and then fail to make it significant
  • Develop conflict, then don’t resolve it in a satisfactory way
  • Have your characters act in unbelievable ways
  • Build up a character toward an internal transformation, but end without letting him have one
  • Resolve too much tension too early
  • Introduce a character, make readers care, then drop them from the story

All these are promise-breakers. We are to avoid them.

Making Promises

Part of making promises to readers is building suspense. Here are a couple of gold nuggets for you. Anticipation keeps readers interested, so to draw them into your story, include less action and more promises. Contrary to what you may have heard, the problem of readers being bored isn’t solved by adding action, but by adding apprehension.

One way of making promises to readers is using the character’s schedule. Simply by having your characters tell readers their schedule, you offer a promise that can crate anticipation and build suspense…When characters make promises to each other, they also serve as promises to your readers…Let characters state consequences if their plans don’t come together.

A final bit of advice on promises: Put characters with whom readers identify in peril, make (and keep) promises that create apprehension, show readers what’s coming so they can worry about the consequences, continually tighten the tension, and relentlessly escalate to your climax. Do this, and you’ll sharpen the suspense, snag readers, and envelop them in your story.

What about you? Does your story make and keep its promises? Did you ever think about your story that way before? Leave a comment and let me know. #amwriting #plotting4pantsers @donnalhsmith @a3writers Tweetable

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