Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guest Post by Janice Hardy

Hello Bloggy Friends!! ^_^

I know it's been a while since I posted last.  It's been a while since I've had any extra time!  But at long last I'm here to post again.  And today is special, because today marks the P&P's first Guest Post! :)

My guest today is Janice Hardy, author of "The Healing Wars" trilogy. You can read my review of her first book, "The Shifter" here:

Janice also runs a blog that is very informative as far as the writing process goes.  I often find her posts very inspiring.

So without further delay, I give you Janice Hardy!! :D

Going Both Ways: Outlines for Plot, Pantser for Character

I realized something recently. I’m an outliner all the way when it comes to crafting the plots in my stories. But for my character arcs, I’m a total pantser. I always know where my characters are going, but rarely how they’ll get there.

To me, this is the best of both worlds, especially since I write science fiction and fantasy, which tends to be fairly plot-focused. I can devote as much time as I need prepping my story framework, then turn my characters loose and see what happens. Not only does it allow me to spend more time developing those characters as I write, it keeps the story fresh for me. I never know how things are going to unfold.

Sometimes this does get me into trouble, but that’s half the fun. In my recent teen fantasy, Darkfall, I knew my heroine Nya had to somehow become the leader of a rebellion. The problem? It just didn’t seem plausible for a 15-year-old-girl to find herself in such a position of power and authority. Being part of a rebellion, sure, but leading it? How could I make that plausible?

The plot needed this, so I took a hard look at Nya and tried to figure out what she would do in this situation. The answer was pretty easy—I told her what to do and turned her loose. She’d figure out how to get there.

For three books, Nya has always done what she felt was right to protect those she loves. She’s also quick to jump into trouble, and has one or two hot-button issues that steal all reason right out of her head. So…

Nya’s loved ones in trouble + hot-button issue = Nya acting without thinking.

If she had to end up leading a rebellion, she just had to find herself in a situation that made her act without thinking to save those she loves. I had to put the pressure on her and see how long it took her to crack and try to take over. Because she would do that eventually. That’s just who she is. She’s learned to rely on no one but herself.

Naturally, I finagled a little with the meaning of “leader” to fit the story better and still fulfill my plot vision. Nya as a general in an army didn’t work, but she could very easily be the driving force behind a rebellion, or be the inspiration for one. And considering how much Nya hates to be the center of attention, putting her in the spotlight made for a lot of writing fun for me.

If you’re an outlining panster, (or think you might be) here are some tips on crafting a story with the best of both worlds:
1. Outliner: Pick a few goals for your characters that set the direction you want the story to go in. That’ll give you a framework in which to write.
Pantser: Think about the motives or emotional states of your characters and why they might go after those goals. How a character feels about something will determine how they approach a problem or how they might go about getting what they want.

2. Outliner: Look for the big turning points in the story. Where do your characters need to be when those moments happen? Where do they need to be going forward after that?
Pantser: Look at where your character has come from, who they are at that point in the story, and who they might become in the near future? How might their past affect how they act? What past fears might be affected (or affect) what’s to come in the plot?

3. Outliner: What are the major surprises in the story? The big reveals or secrets? When are they revealed?
Pantser: How blindsided might your characters be? Do they spot the hints or do they miss them? How do they react to the surprises that surprise you? Is there anything in their past that can shake things up even further?

For the pantser half, most of these things you probably won’t know until you get there, but they’re fun things to think about as you write or after you’ve gotten that first rough draft down on paper.  And one last extra outliner/panster tip:

4. Keep asking yourself how your character feels about what’s going on. Where are they at emotionally and mental when they start a scene? Where are they during the scene? Where do they end up at the end of the scene, and how does that affect their choices moving on? You might be following the plot, but it’ll help you develop rich characters to go with that plot.

If you like a little structure to keep you on track, but relish the discovery of an unfolding story, a combo outline/pantser style might be for you.

What’s your style? Why does that style appeal to you? Is there anything about it you’d like to change?

Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, BLUE FIRE, and DARKFALL from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.  You can visit her online at or chat with her about writing on her blog, The Other Side of the Story.

About Darkfall

War has come.

Nya’s the one who brought it. And the people love her for it.

With Baseer in shambles and Geveg now an impenetrable military stronghold, Nya and the Underground have fled to a safer location—without Tali. Nya is guilt-ridden over leaving her sister behind and vows to find her, but with the rebellion in full swing and refugees flooding the Three Territories, she fears she never will.

The Duke, desperate to reclaim the throne as his own, has rallied his powerful army. And they are on the move, destroying anyone who gets in the way.

To save her sister, her family, and her people, Nya needs to stay ahead of the Duke’s army and find a way to build one of her own. Past hurts must be healed, past wrongs must be righted, and Nya must decide: Is she merely a pawn in the rebellion, a symbol of hope—or is she ready to be a hero?


Galadriel said...

I love that series! And that you so much for providing tips for both pantsters and plotters

Janice Hardy said...

Thanks for letting me stop by today!

C0 said...

I'm the outliner who often strays. For example, during the 2nd draft, I promoted one recurring character to the main trio and pretty much changed the direction of the plot. Personally, both the dramatic and character arcs are equally flexible for me.

Are you going to be posting and responding to comments more now that you're in between projects?

Cam Rawls said...

I never really thought about what type of writer I am. After reading this though, I realize I write in a similar fashion. I always bullet point the main goals and then start writing and see how my characters get me there.

I like to discover things as I write that I might otherwise force just to fit my (loose) outline. That's the fun part of writing for me.

Star-Dreamer said...

Janice: No problem! I am so glad that you decided to guest post here. You have no idea!! ^_^

OC: I'm not sure if you were talking to me or to Mrs. Hardy, but if you were talking to me, then yes... I'm trying to respond to more comments now. (I bet you were talking to Mrs. Hardy though. ;D)

Cam: I think I write in similar fashion. Since I've gotten more serious about the writing process, I usually journal my ideas for stories, then move on to SOTP writing, then work out character flaws and include them. My characters are always all too willing to give me inside info on their personalities and characters. ;)

Janice Hardy said...

CO, I stray all the time from my outline. I just update it and keep going.

Cam, me too!

Star-Dreamer, I CO means you, since I'm not between projects or not commenting right now. :)