Monday, February 20, 2012

Character Pantsing Game

         Consideration 1Pantsing versus Outlining: Larry and I write by the seats of our pants, whatever comes out, comes out. With pantsing characters reveal themselves to us (no pun intended). Character complexity develops as the characters grow in their roles thanks to plot complications.
          Outlining gives authors plenty of time to decide the characters’ strengths weaknesses, etc, but character growth can be limited by the plot thrust upon them.
          Consideration 2 – Infodumping versus Rainbow Sprinkles: Information dumping is something Larry and I rarely do, not by design, but because we don’t know enough about a character TO infodump. I would define a character infodump as a Who’s Who that takes two pages every time a new character is introduced. “Mary lived on a vast estate, rich with green splendor and white capped mountains. Mary loved to take long walks with her yellow labs, Sir Barfsalot and Ms. Yacksamuch. Because, you see, Mary didn’t like to be alone, not after what happened to her when she was eleven years old, living on the streets of London eating only stale rat from the alley and brown grass she pulled from the cracks of the sidewalks” and on and on and on for two pages.
Just because the author knows every single thing about the character doesn’t mean the reader needs to know. At least not all at once, and maybe not ever…
          Rainbow Sprinkles – MMMM. How can this NOT be yummy? I’ve been on a reading binge lately, and such immersion led me to realize something: my favorite novels are filled with rainbow sprinkles. I’m thinking of one book in particular, and even though the plot was carefully outlined, characters were revealed to us in sprinkles, throughout the whole thing, pieces of their lives that made them who they are.  This is helpful to me as a reader, because I remember things about the characters when they are fed to me in occasional spoonfuls as opposed to expecting me to digest a ten-pound banana split at one sitting. 
          Conclusion: Pantsters and Rainbow sprinkles go hand in hand. You can’t info dump if you don’t know the info. That’s what’s so much fun about being a pantster. You get to discover new layers as you go.
          A friend recently asked if I’d ever outlined anything. Yes, way back, my first novel. But I found that outlining and character development took the fun out of the actual writing—that when it came to putting the words on paper, I was bored. Nothing new to be discovered, just regurgitating what I’d already been buried in for weeks. (I’d outlined pretty tightly, so as to avoid writer’s block).
          Then it occurred to me…what if you combined pantsing and character development? What if you knew who all the players were going to be, fully developed with flaws and dreams and challenges, and then let them discover the plot for you?
          No idea, haven’t tried it. That’s just a thought I had this week, something to wonder about and test to see if there’s a way to be sure your characters are all complex and well developed enough to carry the story, but still have fun when it comes to writing the novel. This game is new to me, and one I haven’t played. Yet.
Let the games begin!

1 comment:

angelaparsonmyers said...

That's kind of how I write. I have a general idea of the plot, but the characters I know pretty well. Not that they don't reveal things about themselves as we go, but I know most of their personality traits. Interestingly, I always need a name for the main character before I can start writing. Other characters, not so much.