A Story from Start To Sort of Finish

January 17, 2020

BY Ellen Hoil

Some people have asked me how is an idea born and grow into full fledged story? The answer isn’t as easy as some may think.

From the authors I have talked to, there are two different types of writers: The Outliner and the Pantser. Some may fall in between, but the majority fall into these two categories. What am I? I’m a Pantser and a bit proud of it. Both will start off with a kernel of an idea for a story. From there they each go their separate ways.

For an example we can use the first book I published. I say first because my head is filed with other ideas that I hope will grow from a kernel to a full-fledged book. But that is the future. Let’s look at the past.

I started the book Safe Haven with the idea that I wanted to tell a story about mental illness. What does it look like to the person inside, the people outside, and to those in a relationship?

Then comes the harder part the start of the story itself. I usually spend some time thinking of what type of people would the two main characters be. Not so much what they look like, but more what type of person would they be? What job could they have? That type of thing. Still not too hard, but it definitely takes some imagination.

This is where Outliners and Pantsers digress.

Outliners will scope and flesh out their story. Going chapter by chapter to know where they start, where they end, and every point in between. They may see what each chapter will be and how it will play out. They know from beginning to end before they put pen to paper.

Pantsers are a whole ‘nother breed of writer. I get a general idea of my main characters and where I think they need to end up. Of course, they will end up in love and a happy ever after, but what will that look like. Of that I have no idea. I sit at my computer with my fingers hovering over my keys for a few minutes and then some idea clicks. A switch goes off that tells me “yes that’s how we start off.” From that point on I write wherever the story wants to take me. The down side of this is obvious to some. What happens next, and next, and next after that? I usually have no idea.

This leads to periods of time where my fingers grow stiff from hovering and waiting for the next scene to come out of them. It could be hours, days, weeks and sometimes months before I figure that out. But, then there are the times when it flows so fast, it’s hard to keep up.

The truly exciting part is you never know what will happen next.