Dogs vs. Cats. Stones vs. Beatles. Vanilla vs. Chocolate.

Too often, divergent styles seem to come down to only two choices. As we have seen in life, this is not necessarily so. However, such a rigid choice structure is supposedly designed to identify disparate groups. I’m sure the people who have a fish tank, listen to Led Zeppelin, and prefer Cherry Garcia feel as though their preferences do not matter.

Sadly, this is true as well of writers. For quite some time, there has been a clearly delineated comparison of two distinct style of writing.

Plotters are those who intimately and in great detail plot their forthcoming work. Biographies are created of characters, whether they are main or minor. The story arcs are outlined. The three-act structure is created like an architect designing a building. The work is done in advanced, much as a person preparing a stir-fry would meticulous cut the vegetables and the meat and then simply throw everything together.

Pantsers, as the name clearly implies, fly by the seat of their pants. Maybe they have a story outline or maybe they don’t. Character sketches? Well, perhaps the names and ages. The story arc and three-act structure? Nah. That’s much too complicated. Let’s let the story tell itself, almost with the benign implication of divine inspiration. However, in essence, the Pantser is familiarizing themselves with the characters and allowing them to act in a fashion that is suitable for them.

For a long time, I have participated in the ritual of explaining myself and how I write. Was I strictly a Pantser or did I evolve into one? Am I against detailed outlines and the work involved in creating them, BEFORE I have even put the first word down in the first paragraph of the first chapter?

The truth is that, as a writer of historical crime fiction, there is a great deal of research required before the first word. Accordingly, the characters are specified in terms of who they are, in general, allowing for them to act out of turn if the situation requires it.

That being said, I do not stick to a strict script. A revelation based on research or something inherent in a characters personality may require a change in the course of action. I have hardly altered a resolution previously determined but it might happen someday.

I guess I could call myself a hybrid but even then, further explanation is required. The notion of having to describe the method by which you write often completely undermines the instinctual process buried deep within the writer. The answer for this question is for others, not writers themselves.




  1. I tried being a plotter but it just tied me up in detail and there was no flow. It was stilted. I need an outline for a good story and some necessary research but not to overdo it.


    1. Agreed. Put yourself in the starting blocks and run YOUR race.
      Continued success.

      Liked by 1 person

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