11 January 2017

Plotting vs Pantsing Smackdown

There are two modes of story writing that I've come across. The one that sells, and the one that tells. The first one I think needs structure or else most readers won't get it, they won't stay engaged. I consider myself in the group of most readers. Most readers want to immerse in the story world and feel that arc upon which the protagonist journeys. We all understand that.

I read over at The KillZoneBlog where they discuss an article in Writer's Digest, "Just Write". The article indicates that by our own experiences we have a natural ability to write stories.  And so comes the argument of what method of story writing makes for great content, plotting or pantsing, for what the industry deems sellable.

Today, I'm going to be an advocate for the Pantser. Most folks who want to write have a passion to write. Not to tell a story, but to write, in any form. The story is just the most common and accessible means to doing just that. Writing is what we love to do. But, as mentioned at The KillZoneBlog, you don't just write a story, especially fiction. You must first understand the underlying mechanics of what makes stories work *cough* said the author of a story structure book to the novice writer. If you believe that, you haven't judged many writing contests. The talent pool is swimming with creative young writers who can tell great stories. Their imaginations are phenomenal.

What I like to argue, is for a great work of art to come to fruition, the writer must unleash the story within. That is, the telling of the truth. No form or structure is going to allow for the next great novel to come alive with as much impact. Story structure is what makes the reader get that familiar feel of a story. The beginning/middle/end, a call to journey, the  crisis, the denouement, whatever. It's what sells as a good read. Anyone wanting to write for a living must know this, learn it and apply it. Or you can fall back on the no-resolution resolution structure.

But a story that tells is different for me. The telling of a great story, even in fiction, is one that spills truth. It's one I deem a creation that forms from the implanted seed which grew inside the artist. The only way to spill truth for a writer with a story, is to be unbound from traditional forms of storytelling. How did S.E. Hinton, at such a young age, bang out The Outsiders? Or how did Mary Shelley pen Frankenstein? Do you think she was aware of story structure, or do you think she just wrote what was already within her? I think the latter. She'd endured the birth and death of her baby before she was 18 years old. The story was in her. It wasn't birthed from a formulaic presupposed rendition of the cookie cutter storyline. Though I'm sure publishers polished it up a bit after she wrote it.

Be careful not to provoke the artist into changing their vision. They shouldn't strive to fit a structure before they begin to write. Some guidance is great, but the gifted writer should write without scrutiny or the presupposition that they are incapable of producing greatness without guidance or structure. What came first? The story or the structure? No story should be bound by traditional and formulaic structures before writing it. The Writers Dream Kit contains over 32,000 story forms. I wonder how we discovered those forms. Were they written first?

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