Pantslining: It’s all the Rage

Pantslining: It’s all the Rage
July 18, 2016 2 Comments For Authors, Writing Advice Nancy E Miller

In writing, the one complaint I hear above all others is “Do I have to have an outline?”  Pantsers (seat of the pants writers) would say no.  Outliners would say definitely.  I am more in the middle of the road and on my road, you need a map. 

cocoparisienne / Pixabay

Why?  Because, much like the traveler that sets off without knowing his destination and a vague sense of how to get there, you may get lost, make several wrong turns, end up on dead-end streets, or simply ride right past your destination and keep going and going and going.

If you stick with the classic three-act format. (If you count 2A and 2B as acts then it is actually four, but who am I to mess with the classics?) 

You need an inciting incident…a reason for starting the journey. Your friend calls for help.  At exit 2A, there is something wrong with the car.  You get it fixed temporarily but the concern is there that it will break again.  At 2B, you call your friend and tell them you may have to stop but they insist you absolutely must arrive on time.  You pull off on exit 3, your destination, only to find that the entire town is flooded and your friend is depending on you to rescue him and his dog.  In the Denouement, the water receded, your friend is safe, the dog is sound asleep and all is well. 

Okay, that is an oversimplification but it proves my point.

                Step 1: What starts the story?  (Inciting Incident)

                Step 2A:  What is the first crisis/major conflict? (Rising action)

                Step 2B: What is the next crisis/major conflict?  Is it building on 2A? (Rising action)

Step 3: What is the Big Bang?  The confrontation?  The white hat and the black hat gunslingers meeting in the street?  Who is going to win?

Denouement:  The tie up of all the action, all the questions.  (No more than a few pages…the Cardinal sin of writing is Thou shalt not Drone on.)

      You now have a basic roadmap.  Fill in ideas of how you get to each point.  Or you could just pants it, as long as you remember you need to match up with the informal outline…or let’s call it a Pantsline

     I’m going to include illustrations here at the bottom so that you get an idea of the plot structure.  The rest is fill-in-the-blanks. When you finish, you should have a rough outline.  It won’t look like the ones they made you write out in high school, but it will work for what you need. Just one more thing…you will add more into the outline as you go.  Don’t be concerned about this.  Go with the flow.  

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Nancy E Miller Nancy E. Miller, romantic suspense author of Shark Bait and Crystal Unicorns, lives near St. Louis with her husband and three dogs, pygmy goats, chickens and a cranky rooster named Ketchup. Her degree is in Psychology and Sociology. She has worked in education and mental health as a case manager and crisis counselor.

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