by D.M. Gutierrez
I’m going to talk about why I am a pantser, so if you are sick and tired of this subject, move along. I’m not going to advocate for pantsing over outlining though, just discuss what drives me to write without an outline (like walking a tightrope without a net, no?), proposing some reasons for my behavior.
I love mystery. Well, not mystery per se, but the solving of a mystery. Even as a kid I gobbled up mystery stories, watched TV shows and movies about mystery, and tried (unsuccessfully) to write mysteries. Christmas was the most exciting when I finally got to open my presents—what is in that oddly shaped beribboned box?!—and I was sorely disappointed when the secrets were all revealed. Sure, it wasn’t because she was a greedy little tyke.
My father encouraged this behavior by drawing random lines on a piece of paper and handing it to me to complete a picture of some sort. He probably did it to keep me busy while he was working, but it sparked my imagination and drove me to turn randomness into order.
So, something like this:
might turn into something like this: (don’t judge me! I’m no artist.)
She’s just filling up the page with childish drawings!
No, I’m demonstrating how the same randomness can lead to very different outcomes, depending on how you look at the blank (or nearly blank) canvas. Note: absolutely no effort was put into making these pictures in proportion or perspective, just scribbling furiously to get this post done!
I do similar things with my writing: turn the canvas this way and that, squint at the characters, add a bit here and a bit there, put more emphasis on one aspect than another, etc.
I often throw in more randomness when I get stuck—a shaggy-haired pony grazing by a brook, reins trailing (where did it come from, what happened to its rider?), the clang of a distant gong (does that signify something? Who is wielding the mallet?), an unfamiliar aroma wafting in through a window (perfume? roast snarfle? a poisonous gas?), and so on. Doing this often takes me in directions I never would have imagined if I were outlining. I create my own mystery—and then somehow, from the recesses of my overfilled attic of a mind—solve that mystery for myself.
I’m afraid that if I knew everything that was going to happen in my WIP from the get-go, I just wouldn’t write it. That would be like being handed an unwrapped present or a page ripped from a coloring book. I am my foremost reader, I guess. I want to unravel the mystery myself!