"Who Knew Nigel Had an Iguana?"
At the SOKY Bookfest Saturday, I was once again confronted with the question, "Are you a planster or a pantser?"
Fortunately, the members of the League of Reluctant Adults had previously explained to me that a "planster" is a writer that works from a previously planned plot outline. A "pantser," has no plan and lets their plot grow spontaneously, flying by the seat of their pants. It's a good thing someone explained that, because when I was in high school, "pantser" meant something totally different.
I am more of a hybrid, a "shortster" - more of a planster, less than a panster. I have a general outline of how I think the plot will go, random scenes and dialogue exchanges I plan on using. And generally, I use about 60 percent of the outline. And much of the planned dialogue becomes what my friend, Brandi, calls "outtakes."
But it was clear, while sitting on the Bookfest panel with fellow romance writers Teresa Madeiros, LuAnn McClane, and Allie Pleiter, that they were all pantsers. Teresa talked about writing a scene in her book After Midnight in which a female character spends the night in a crypt with a vampire. Teresa "faded to black" before the reader saw what happened in the crypt and neither character comments on what transpires. Fans asked, "So what happened?" And Teresa had to confess that she had no idea, the characters hadn't told her yet. They didn't tell her until she started writing the sequel, The Vampire Who Loved Me, and the story came out while the characters were talking.
She said, "I stood up, screamed and ran around the room, yelling, 'Of course that's what happened!"
Then there was Allie, who described sitting on a plane, typing a scene and suddenly, it became clear that her character needed an iguana. Named Marilyn. She exclaimed, "Who knew Nigel had an iguana?!" And found all of her fellow passengers staring at her.
So the lesson here, kids, is that with or without a plan... writers can be scary people.