HISTORY AND FICTION WRITING ARE MORE ALIKE THAN WE LIKE TO THINK
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Most people outside the writing world might think these terms – plotter, and pantser – might have something to do with a printer of maps and charts, or about pants …
Plotters are writers who design their story – plan and organize their plot before they start writing. Not every detail, but they have a general plan, a recipe, a roadmap, if you will, of where they are taking their story and characters. They meticulously plan and outline their stories before they begin writing them.
Then, there are pantsers – writers who ‘fly by the seat of their pants,’ which means they make it up as they go along. No roadmap, no plan. The ready, fire, aim approach.
The hybrid, quite naturally, is the writer who claims to do both – and I confess/admit/boast, to be one of those.
Does this kind of separation of types, and styles, have a parallel in non-writing life?
I think it does.
We all know people who are plotters.
Engineers and accountants come to mind first for me because precision and certainty are the currency they trade in, which is not to say people on the other end of the spectrum, like artists, are necessarily pantsers.
Figuring out our story, by design or by wandering around, is not a new problem for writers or anyone else.
Size doesn’t matter unless it’s the size of the pay packet.
Size doesn’t matter unless what is in the fridge needs to feed a large crowd.
When we lead, or when we follow – at work, in our community, and in our politics, who is leading up? Are they plotters or pantsers? Yes, their message is the boiled down and baked-in porridge rendered by their advisors and speechwriters, but they set the tone. The show us whether they have a plan or not; they show us if they are prepared to be creative, innovative, and reactive to new information and circumstances as they go along. Sadly, too often, their reaction and deviation from their ‘what they wanted to do all along’ is only altered when a tape or memo is revealed, or when they are caught on an open-mike …
Politicians make history, but they don’t usually write historical accounts because they are too busy making their message fit the story they want to tell rather than letting their plot, actions, and history play out transparently.