Going Nowhere

I’m a planner. Not a pantser.

I find outlining really important because I often wander away from the essential thread of the story to pursue drama that’s interesting to me, but, really only a sidebar to the larger story arc.

Where are you on the planning/pantsing spectrum?

Anyone else get partway through a chapter and realize — “oops” — while interesting, that wasn’t the right fight to have here?

There’s a balance here.

  • On one hand, the Hero’s Journey goes through a bunch of stages to emerge on the other side a new person.
  • On the other hand, the characters have specific needs and demands, and these can’t be ignored. In this case, I worry about the overall arc of the story going nowhere.

If I tried to slavishly follow the Hero’s Journey, I’m going to write a flat story where little characters marched around kind of pointlessly. It would probably turn out like a meta-story, a story about a story. 

If I tried to pants my way along, a lot of dramatic things would happen, but they may not really lead anyplace that has a larger, thematic purpose. They would be a loosely connect series of vignettes.

This does mean writing and deleting things. 

Because I have a structure, I sometimes edit early

I think my stories are at the fringes of #grimdark. But I also think even #grimdark can have a larger story arc beyond “Life sucked: they got into sword fights, and it didn’t work out well.”

Consequently, some chapters are more work than others.

The Hero’s Journey often involves a “Road of Trials” blocking the hero’s Initiation. For me, this is a place where pantsing causes problems. The trials can grow and morph. Each trial is — in a way — a mini-novel of drama and conquest. There’s the potential for a lot of nuance at smaller and smaller scales.

Indeed, one could consider a “Road of Trials” as the overall framework for Tales of the Red Ranger. The entire five-book series could be considered as steps in a larger, broader, more sweeping tale of a mage’s initiation.

Let’s not, though.

I like gritty and detailed fiction, so, some of the trials have to be summarized, or elided down to a few essential ingredients.

I’m reaching the end of the Initiation phase, and the writing flows a little more smoothly because pantsing is allowed again.

In a few days, we’ll start “The Return” portion of the Hero’s journey. A concrete decision has to be made, and the Mage and Red Ranger disagree. There’s a limited space for panting here, because they have no common understanding of what return means.

 © F. L. Stevens 2019