Lately, I've seen a lot of two particular terms brandied about on various author and writing blogs. Plotters and Pansters. The debate rages across forums and conferences. It's an issue that transcends genre, common to all authors. What are they? Who are they? Why does it even matter?
Plotters. Doesn't sound very romantic, does it? In fact, it brings to mind the image of an author kneeling in a patch of garden soil. Through tedious and attentive toil, the plotter carefully attends to their story seedlings, waiting for the moment when the plant blooms and produces full blown characters, chapters and complete story outlines. Plotters strive to have their story grow organically from their labor, minimizing wasted effort.
Plotters are writers who work within a structural framework. There are a number of tools employed to create the scaffolding that can include: outlines, charts, diagrams, index cards, and software programs such as Scrivener. A plotter often knows the beginning, middle and conclusion of the story before the writing process even begins and uncertainty imparts a sense of anxiety. Research is fundamental to a plotter's understanding of a topic before she feels comfortable writing about it.
Pansters. This term, on the other hand, seems inherently romantic. Envision the enterprising author hopping into a bi-plane and literally "flying by the seat of her pants", defying the probably of crash and burn to soar amongst the clouds. The ride is exciting and the panster's enthusiasm carries the story forward. Unexpected plot twists and unplanned developments are common.
Pansters crave freedom and may dislike or actively shun the constraints imposed by structural framework. A single idea or character grabs the pantser, sending her on a frenzied writing spree to get the words down onto paper. The author writers without any idea of what will happen or how the story ends. Taking the time to outline or create writing aids may dampen the panster's creativity and ability to finish the story.
Many new writers begin as pansters and gradually acquire the tools of world-building as their writing skills evolve. Other authors may over plan and actually need to acquire a degree of freedom in order to reach true creative productivity. It's been my experience that the plotter versus panster issue is not truly black and white. Rather, it is a matter of spectrum with different authors falling at different points along the continuum.
Personally, I began writing as a panster and gradually evolved into a plotter. In 2000, I made my first attempt at an original contemporary romance. The first incarnation of A CAT'S TALE (originally published by The Wild Rose Press in Jan. 2012) came into the world as a rollercoaster ride for both me and my heroine, Josephine. From chapter to chapter, I had no idea what would happen next. It was mysterious and exciting but also frustrating. I got off onto wild tangents and eventually entire parts of the story were removed or revised. In contrast, when I started Hunger Moon, my paranormal novel, in 2009, I applied a far more structured process to the story creation. I employed outlines throughout and I wrote the last chapter long before I finished the novel.
I learned to write without ever having heard the terms "plotter" or "panster". To me, the important thing is to find where you are at on the spectrum and to honor that as part of your process. Good writers never reach the point where they say: "There's nothing else I can learn." Continue to acquire new knowledge and strive to better your skills as a storyteller. Remain true to yourself and truth will manifest within the pages of your story.
Alpha werewolf, Jared Kohl, wakes up in a vampire’s dungeon, swearing revenge upon the wily Siamese werecat who lured him there with her sultry lips and the sweetest tail. To escape his undead captor, all he has to do is seduce the skittish puss and show her that trust is often a hot and hard lesson to learn.
Enslaved feline shifter, Josephine Young, has learned the hard way not to believe in anything or anyone—not men, not love, and certainly not the blood-sucking mistress who tossed her into the cage with the hungry beast she’d betrayed. But Josephine does what she must to survive, including tempting the dominant werewolf to give her more than promises.
Imprisoned for their blood, Jared and Josephine fight for survival and discover a passion that neither can walk away from. Can these two predators survive long enough to prove that cats and dogs can be more than enemies?
The bar was dim and cheap with its 60s themed movie and rock posters, and a jukebox pumping out Jimi Hendrix and The Stones. Jared took a seat at a corner table where he could stretch out his long legs and appreciate the classic image of Marilyn Monroe and her billowing white dress.
As a stranger to this community, he was bound to attract attention. Jared measured a neat six-four and two hundred twenty pounds of pure sinewy muscle. His dark brown hair had gotten too long, so stubborn curls tumbled across his forehead. His neat mustache and beard covered only his chin, framing his mouth. He was handsome and knew it. He had his father’s good looks—broad forehead, strong nose, generous mouth, and square jaw. From his mother, he’d inherited startling topaz eyes. A cleft divided his chin.
As distracting as all the eyes upon him were, Jared got hard the second he scented her—rich and musky and designed for fucking. His posture remained relaxed as she walked up behind him. He did not glance up until she ran a hand over his shoulder. Her fingernails were painted fire-engine red and sharpened to points. The light scratches she left on his skin healed thanks to his regenerative ability.
“So a werewolf and a werecat walk into a bar…” Her voice was low and husky, pitched to create a seductive resonance within a man’s crotch. Beneath the pheromones, he smelled sadness and anxiety, which intrigued him more than the blatant come on. She seemed more complex than she wanted to let on.
Jared looked up from his drink to get hung up on a pair of pretty knees clad in white stockings and red lace garters encircling slender thighs. Her plaid skirt was the right length of short, stopping just shy of crotch level, low enough to tease him. She wore a prim white button-up shirt with a collar and rolled sleeves. Her skin was Asian mocha, and her hair was black and worn in pigtails secured with red ribbons. Her almond-shaped eyes were bright blue with slit pupils. The ornate gold collar around her neck seemed incongruous with the outfit. She was working the Japanese schoolgirl angle hard, but he judged her to be in her early twenties. Sometimes with shapechangers, it was hard to tell.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Jared said. “Does the wolf eat the pussycat?” He smiled, showing a hint of fang. It had been a while since he’d eaten, and he was hungry enough to consider her the entrée. Jared met those cobalt eyes but did not worry about dominance. He was smart enough not to get into a staring contest with a cat.
“Does the wolf want to eat the pussycat?” She trailed a suggestive hand down his chest and then sat on his lap. Unless he was mistaken, she wasn’t against the idea of being splayed and licked. Hell, she might go for biting if her kink was pain.
“It’s been a while since I last ate,” he said. She wasn’t what he expected of a werecat. But then he’d never met one until she walked up and sat in his lap, so he was free of preconceived notions.
“You’re new to town,” she said. “Are you here with your pack?” Oh man, she was leading him without any subtlety. He smelled the trap big time.
“I’m on my way to LA,” he said. “Sorry, but I’m afraid it’s just me.” He watched her reaction, trying to figure her angle. She had fire and spirit, and the air of a creature abused.
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Melissa Snark is published with The Wild Rose Press & as an Indie author with four different titles.
Her Loki's Wolves series includes THE CHILD THIEF, HUNGER MOON AND BATTLE CRY (to be released June 2014).
Her novel THE MATING GAME, an erotic paranormal title will be released in Spring 2014.
She lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband, three children and a glaring of cats.
She blogs about books and writing on The Snarkology.
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