Last week I told you all about this cool way players of Dungeons & Dragons classify their characters based on how well they follow laws or rules (lawful/neutral/chaotic) and what sort of person they are (good/neutral/evil). Click here to read that post if you missed it.
This week I’m going to share how that applies to you as a writer because someone created a Character Analysis table for writers to classify how much of a pantser or plotter you are. Yes, this was entirely done in fun, but it works!
So, let’s break this apart!
If you’re a Lawful Pantser (does the position of this imply that pantsers are “good” and plotters are “evil”? That worries me a touch.) then you follow the rules of writing quite strictly and write from the beginning of the story through to the end, but are still flying by the seat of your pants (your story may “end up in strange places”). Whereas if you’re a Neutral Pantser then you might not write your story in order, but you’re still a dedicated pantser because you don’t know how or when the story will end. However, being a Chaotic Pantser makes this plotter downright terrified. It doesn’t sound like they’re even writing a story, they’re just writing whatever the hell they feel like writing at that moment.
A Lawful Plantser (I love that portmanteau!) sounds a lot like a plotter to me. They know where their story is going, has analyzed who their characters are and loves to get creative with their world building. The Neutral Plantser is leaning more toward pantsing. They start off with an outline, but then will ditch it if things don’t head that way. And the Chaotic Plantser sounds like some true pantsers I’ve met. They generally write the story, but out of order, and then put it all together and see what they’ve got at the end of it.
Finally, she’s got the Lawful Plotter. This would be the most meticulous plotter you can imagine complete with detailed characters sheets and an outline from which they never stray. The Neutral Plotter has an outline but is willing to let the characters take the lead. The outline will be modified to meet the changing demands of the story. And finally, the Chaotic Plotter who still plots (they are a plotter after all), but once the plot is created, they’re happy to write whatever scene takes their fancy and will later put everything together into the correct order (chaotic sounds right to me!).
So, where do you fall in this graph?
Personally, I love plotting. I start every book with all of my little (virtual, although sometimes real) index cards filled in (one for every scene) and usually I’ll even put them all onto sticky notes and pop them onto a huge W graph I have hanging on the wall of my office (so I can easily see the balance of scenes from the two or three povs I use in the story: each pov is a different colored sticky note). I fill in my character sheets, but don’t always know the specifics of my character’s backstory (unless I need to figure that out in order to write the story). But if my characters stray from my pre-determined plot, I’m okay with that. I think about it, worry a little, panic a little, but then re-organize, replot, and move on. And I love world building!
I think this all puts me somewhere in between a Lawful Plotter and a Neutral Plotter, Lawful Plantser and Neutral Plantser. I’ll never be chaotic, I can’t stand writing scenes out of order, just the thought sends chills down my spine.
I’d be here:
The wonderful thing about this way of classifying people (including writers) is that it allows for a sliding scale. You don’t have to perfectly fit into one box. There’s nothing wrong with hovering on a line, or, in my case, at the intersection of four.
So, does any of this matter? Nope! It’s just fun. You do what’s comfortable for you. There is no right way or wrong way. Plotters are not evil, pantsers are not good, or vice-versa. But one thing I will say, it’s good to know where you sit on this table because then it’s easier to know how you should move forward with your writing.
Do you need to plot a little more? Write scenes out of order? Just say ‘to hell with it’ and write whatever you feel like writing and see if you can’t make a story out of it later? Try new things. Try new ways of writing. The only way you’ll know what sort of writer you are is to try. Experiment. Once you figure out what you’re comfortable with, you’ll know how to move on and finish that book, and the next one too. Enjoy!