Friday, August 12, 2016

The Pantster's Lifesaver

Hi all! My name is Amanda Tero, and I'm new here at Word Painters. I'm super excited to be a part of a blog that edifies and encourages writers. Thanks, Alicia, for bringing me on board!! Now that I'm no longer a stranger, we'll continue to the article, shall we?

I write what's considered a "pantster" writing style. You know, "fly by the seat of your pants." Writing before you have it all outlined. Thinking up plotlines as you go. It's great fun to do so, but there can very easily be major pitfalls in writing this style. One of the most common pitfalls is inconsistency. You've probably seen them in amateur writing before -- the one comment that suddenly makes you stop with, "Wait! I thought this character had blue eyes three chapters ago..." And of course, as a writer, this is the type of mistake I'd like to avoid. However, if I'm creating characters, scenes, and situations as I go, it means that I most likely haven't sat down to think them through carefully.

I have honestly tried to print out character sheets and outline my characters before I write them, but that just doesn't work for me (you know, the ones where you have to decide their whole back story, eye color, favorites, and everything else). My characters tend to form as I write them -- and sometimes, I don't have the same "list of knowledge" for each character (e.g. I don't know each of my character's family trees). That being the case, I just create Word documents which save my pantster-loving life (er, my story).

As soon as I introduce a character in my story, I create a document for him. 

Yep, just a name. Then, as I write a little more, I might add something like this:

His character develops more -- an interesting trait or something -- and with every addition I put in my manuscript, I put in my character page. I also jot down anything I think is important for me to remember. Sometimes, I'll add a quote from this character or special phraseology, if applicable.

Here, we must leave my Zeke Thomas example, because this is as far as I've currently developed him. As I continue to write Journey of Choice, and if Zeke continues to show up in the scenes, then his document will grow. And as I continue to write, I have something to go back to, to glance at, to keep me consistent.

One more example before I leave, because this method helps me for more than just characters. Here's my castle plans for my WIP, "Befriending the Beast." I have more rooms floating around in my mind, but Belle hasn't yet entered these rooms, so I haven't quite decided which floor they're on, or what they looks like. When I do decide, you can be sure that it will find its place in this document.

I know there are magnitudes of methods for preserving your ideas as you write. This is just the method that works best for me, but I'd love to hear your side. 
How do you develop your characters, scenes, and plots? 
Do you use premade outlines and character sheets? Do you plan your characters before you write them out, or do they develop "on their own?" Do you keep a notebook by your laptop? Do you sketch house plans? What is your secret?


Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again – starting with some short stories that she wrote for her sisters as a gift. Her mom encouraged her to try selling the stories she published, and since then, she has begun actively writing short stories, novellas, and novels. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it!



  1. Thank you for posting, Amanda! What a great idea to write down little notes about certain characters or places or whatever you need to remember!

    I'm afraid that I'm not much of an "outline all my characters" type of person, either. Honestly, I just don't take the time to, but thankfully, my characters have really come together for me nicely as I've written about them. :)

    Thank you again for posting!


    1. Thank you for the reply, Amanda! I apologize if I sounded prideful. I meant the outlining like writing down every little bitty thing on those charts that you mentioned above. I really think your idea is awesome. Sometimes I do have to write down details so I don't forget. (Like a character's full name if I mention it in my book. It certainly wouldn't do to change or misspell their name in the middle of the book, would it? LOL) I might just have to make a file on my computer for different characters. :)

      Anyway, I'm sorry if my comment came across wrong. I didn't mean to do so!

    2. No, it didn't sound prideful at all (or that you were combatting my idea)! :) I took it as a different approach than what I have. God made us all unique and our styles are all different. :) I know that a lot of the things I do are "untraditional" but hey - it helps me so I'm good with it. :) Thanks for your comment!

    3. Thank you, Amanda. :) I appreciate your understanding!

  2. I am also a "pantser" and don't create characters ahead of time. Usually I just grab a piece of paper and jot down new characters names, hair and eye color, and anything else I want to remember, as I learn about them. I also often go back and reread what I've already written to help me keep the story working.

  3. Great post, Amanda! I'm not a pantster, but this is a good way of keeping track of things. On a few of my major characters, I've filled out character worksheets, and enjoyed getting to know them that way either before the story or during, if I feel they're lacking a certain depth. My minor characters often develop on their own, however. I keep a list of characters and their characteristics either on my laptop or in a notebook, depending on the story. And I do sketch the plan of a house if it's a big part of the story. :)
    I'm excited that you're a part of Word Painters!

  4. Great idea! I usually have all my character facts lumped into one document, but it may be helpful to have a separate one for each... ;)

  5. @ Bekah - that's great that you can keep your characters all pulled together that way. :) I just know that my poor memory wouldn't take it. ;) I would definitely forget something important. :D

    @ Rebekah - oh boy, yeah, I've got a ton of random little papers around. I actually just cleaned off my desk from them. ;) Rereading with consistency in mind is a good point!

    @ Kelsey - I've sketched a house plan before too (for the Bowles farmhouse in "Journey to Love"), well actually, I did it on the computer. My drawing skills are pathetic even when it comes to house plans. ;) It was neat to hear how you go about character development!

    @ Kate - hope it helps! :)

  6. This is a great idea! Thank you for sharing!

    1. You're welcome! :) Thanks for commenting!

  7. Love this idea, Amanda!! In the little bit of fiction I've done, I've had a mix of pantser and plotter with my characters. Some open up about themselves right away and some take form as the story does. :) Will certainly stash this idea away for my characters that take longer to introduce themselves to me. ;)

    1. Very true about those characters! :) Let me know if you end up doing this or if something completely different works for you. :) Thanks for commenting, Kenz!

  8. Hi Amanda,

    Welcome to the team!

    In the past I've used K.M. Weiland's "Crafting Unforgettable Characters" for inspiration with character bibles.

    One of the advantages of writing a series is that you get to reuse all of that initial character creation work. :)


    1. Thanks, John! I really am super glad to be here on board!

      You know, I have downloaded that book by K.M. Weiland but haven't gotten around to reading it. I so need to!

      Ah, I knew there was another reason I really needed to write a series. ;) So far, everything I've written is disconnected. :/


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