Plot vs. Plod:
Todd Fahnestock Looks at Two Methods for Creating a Story
By Cathy Dilts
Are you a plotter or a plodder?
Asking for a show of hands in the second half of his Write Brain talk, Todd Fahnestock showed that the audience fell into three evenly divided camps. The plotters plan their story, creating an outline before they begin writing. Plodders prefer to fly by the seat of their pants. But a third of the audience claimed to combine the two. Some writers plot, and as they start writing, they tend to abandon the original roadmap. Others jump right in and set up an outline after they are well into the story.
Todd called himself a “dyed in the wool plodder.” By this, he meant that he prefers a more intuitive style of writing where you start at the beginning and go where the story takes you. As his brother is fond of saying, “Just walk.” The opposite of this is plotting.
Todd told the audience about his experience working with co-author Giles Carwyn on Heir of Autumn. Carwyn believed a writer should, as Todd quotes, “lay the bones out, assemble them, then put the flesh on.” Their first published novel was meticulously planned in a daunting eleven step process.
One advantage to this sort of intensive plotting is that you know where you’re going. You don’t have to think as much in the middle of your story. There is less chance of contradiction, and more opportunity for complexity. On the downside, it’s more difficult to keep the voice fresh and to retain a sense of surprise.
Plodding is an organic style of story creation. Todd listed more advantages, admitting his own bias in favor of this technique. The story can take on a life of its own, and it is easier to create a character driven story. The disadvantages are that you might write yourself into a corner, develop a fatal flaw in your story, or your inspiration may dry up, leaving you with writer’s block.
Whether you are a plotter, a plodder, or a combination of both, Todd’s advice from the first half of his talk applies: write every day.