Thursday, June 9, 2011

Haunted by visions

Mooderino blogged about pantsing (writing without an outline) and I found it very interesting because I am not a pantser. For the record, if you can do it then more power to you. I can't do it. If I put two of my characters in a room, you'll get ten pages of random conversation that might go somewhere, or might not.

I especially found this statement interesting: But the main difference between plotting and pantsing is that the writer who plots out the story needs to jump to the conclusion of each scene. In order to be able to say what happens next you have to not only say what the scenes about, but how it ends. For a pantser, you only find out how a scene ends when you’ve actually written the scene. 

Being a plotter, I never thought of that as odd or challenging. My thought, on reading that, is: if you don't know how the scenes link together, how will you get to that dramatic climax you had a vision of?

Ah, but do pantsers have a vision of a dramatic climax? 

Once upon a time when I was writing epic fantasy (epic in volume, if nothing else) I spent upwards of a year with a painfully clear vision in my head. One of my heroes, Kiefan, standing on the staircase above the castle's main hall with his sword in hand. The main hall was full of enemy soldiers who had just broken in. Kiefan stood there with a murderous look on his face because he was on his way to kill Anders (my other hero) and all these enemy soldiers were in his way.

Heck, it's been years and I can still see that moment clear as day. 

When I'm drawing my map, which I blogged a bit about here, I'm doing some connect-the-dots. I start with some number of visions of landmark scenes in my head and the function of my outline is to get me from one to the other in a reasonable and hopefully exciting manner. Often, I have to add landmark scenes because it's not unusual to start with only one or two.

Do you have visions of dramatic moments in your stories? Or do you start out with a problem and some characters and see what happens? Some combination of those two approaches?


Lissa said...

I definitely have dramatic visions in my stories, and they are often written first (or at least planned, when I write linearly). More in my high fantasy, since I took my time with that, than my sci-fi, which was written quickly for NaNoWriMo (not much time to dream when I had a daily word count). Sometimes I've written a scene and realise I could make it more dramatic, so I go back and rewrite sections.
Other times I just write the chapter and see what happens in it, usually with a vague notion of what has to happen or what it's about. Sometimes (to my surprise) it ends up having some pretty awesome subtext I never even planned.

mooderino said...

Thanks for the mention! I think most writeres have scene they have in mind ahead of time, it's hard not to keep thinking of stuff when you aren't at your desk (or whereever). Or it might be one scene theat sets off the whole idea for the story. And occasionally by the time you've finished, that original scene doesn't even make it in to the final draft. Cat, skinning, ways, many.

Suze said...

'Do you have visions of dramatic moments in your stories?'

In a word, YES.

Julie Jansen said...

I rarely start out with an outline and usually wind up (especially with longer pieces) wishing I had. I begin with a vision and then just start from there. Mooderino mentioned that sometimes you don't end up with the original vision in the story. I've definitely had that happen.

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