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Writing - They call me _Mister_ Jenkins...

It was a dark and stormy night…

OK. Scratch that. It probably wasn’t. And even if it was, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. But – OK. Dark? Check. Stormy? Check. Night? Sure. Let’s say it was.

The company of heroes gathered. The enemy lay ahead, and a mighty foe it was indeed. Few there were who could best the evil, but this company was of the best, and its leader a mighty general. They would…

Actually, what they would do would be to shut up. And listen. And, mostly, do as they were told. One Cleric was going to wait till the enemy Torturer began to turn red, then he was going to cast ‘Abort Evil’. Since Abort Evil was an Area Affect spell, as soon as the Cleric did his thing, the Ice Mage was going to drop ‘Ice Sheet’ so that when the army of demons agro-ed, they couldn’t move very fast. The three warrior tanks were going to concentrate on the enemy Life-Stealers, so they couldn’t leech all the Raid group’s life-force and keep bringing anyone the group killed back to life. The Elementalist was going to call down Lightning, because Lightning’s a damn good interrupt and it would stop the enemy Necromancers from raising up massed zombies. See, massed zombies can ruin your whole day. Er – night.

Of course, that’s when Leroy did his thing. Because there’s always a Leroy. Leroy Jenkins. The guy who get’s bored listening to the plan, and runs like mad into the cave screaming his battle cry – ‘Leeeeeeeeroy Jenkiiiiiiiins!’ Mostly, that’s when everybody ends up dead.

The other night somebody told me I was Leroy smiley. Or frown.

Hmmmm. Perhaps I should start again cheeky.

It’s there. On the front page:

“When I'm not writing (well, or editing my writing. Or re-writing. Or editing my re-writing. Or... Quite. You get the picture), I'm doing other things. Some of them are fun things, like online gaming (If you know Bard Elcano, you know me. If you know a grumpy old dragon called Sephiranoth, you know me. If you know a tall, dark, handsome but brooding vampire, charming witty and brilliant - we never met. That's someone else.)”

So, yes. Sometimes I’m a gamer. An online gamer. And, in online gaming, there are things called Raids. A Raid is when a big group of gamers get together to fight something really, really nasty that nobody can beat on their own. Normally because if the really, really big nasty thing dies, there’s some amazing piece of armour or weapon or magic ring or really, really good garlic sausage they might win. OK. Probably not the garlic sausage. Though I do like a good gar…


Anyway. The thing about Raids is – they only work when everybody follows The Plan. Which really means that someone has to know The Plan (mostly because they’ve done it before), everybody has to listen to The Plan – and everybody has to follow it. Do exactly what The Plan says they have to do, exactly when they have to do it. And if somebody doesn’t follow The Plan, if someone has to be Leroy – everybody dies.

Of course, it’s a game. And everybody lives again, and tries to do it again – without Leroy.

There are a lot of gamers who love Raids. Me? Meh.

Not everything in games is Raiding. A lot of gaming is doing things for the first time, when there is no Plan. Or wandering round without a large group at your back. Or front. And yes, you get to die a lot then as well. Even without Leroy. But nobody’s telling you what to do. When to do it. You sort of make it up as you go along. And you know what?

A lot of people who love Raids hate making it up as they go along .

So what’s that got to do with writing? Well, maybe nothing. But if I stretch a point – writers are a bit like that. In a way. Because some writers are what’s known as Plotters. Or Planners. Before they write one single word, they draw out their universe. They know how far apart the freckles are on the heroine’s mother’s best friend’s sister’s nose. Even though the nose never appears in the book. They know why John’s brother died in the war ten years ago, and how that caused Mary’s wine-gum addiction. And they really do know how many miles it is to Babylon, and whether it’s first left at Albuker… Albakirk… amber-dirk… er, they have a map. And then there’s the other type of writer. The Pantster. Before they type a word, they pretty much know where the keyboard is. Mostly. Well, best of five anyway. And they start typing. And…. ‘Leeeeeeeeroy Jenkiiiiiiiins!’ devil

So maybe there is a link, after all. Maybe, if writers were gamers, Plotters would be Raiders. And Pantsters would boldly go where no typist has ever gone before, at least none that didn’t already have a Plan. And maybe the Plotters finish more books they actually get round to starting, and maybe Pantsters start more books than they get to finish. And maybe it’s better to arrive than to travel without purpose, and maybe it’s better to journey and smell each random encountered rose along the way, and when you get to Albukir… to toss a coin at every bend.

And maybe, just maybe – a bit of both.

So there you are. To paraphrase the Beard of Avon – ‘to Plan, or not to Plan. That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to be but Pants, or take keyboard ‘gainst a sea of words, and Plot them.’ The floor is open. Thoughts? Comments?


Kelly Hashway's picture

I'm a plotter. But... I do stray from my planning. I've been known to write 24+ pages of chapter summaries so I know exactly where the story is going, and then I let my characters lead me astray when they know better than I do. I don't consider the planning pointless though. I need to have a plan in my head, even if I don't end up using it. It's like my safety net, and it helps me battle the demon that is the blank white screen.

Graeme's picture

Heh. It's interesting - well, to me at least. I find the evil white screen staring at me when (and if cheeky) I ever sit down to Plan - and the evil goes away if I just start typing Book instead. Although what I tend to do is write the first three Chapters - then the very last one. By then, I know the characters, and even if I don't 'know' where they're going - I just send them someplace anyway. Then all I have to do is fill in the middle bit - whimper blush.laugh.


Debbie's picture

  Well I guess if I was a writer I would be a pantster as that is how I mainly get through life and anything I do. Being the eternal pantster that I am, I couldn't even plan to write a plan as that would involve a plan and so on...

  However I don't think there is any right or wrong way to write a book or most other things it's whichever way is right for you.  Sometimes that may involve writing a plan, especially if (using the book example) you are writing a sequel.  Other times flying by the seat of your pants allows you to look up from what you are doing, see whats around you, smell the roses etc., and take some of that and inject it into what you're writing which may or may not take your writings on a completely different course.

  After all if you are writing fiction/fantasy how far if at all should your imagination be bound by constraints?.

My  tuppence and some belly button lints worth ...

Graeme's picture

So I guess if you game, you run round like a maniac, making it up as you go along, huh? I bet you drive your companions mad if you do that. Suddenly running off into the distance, and then giggling as you lie down dead... cheeky.

Gentle readers - and even the psychopathic ones at the back beating up Jones Minor - I jest. I tease. Because Lady Debbie is the one who, um, decided to call me Leroy..... She deserves all your sympathy devildevil!

But I think (shock horror, because you know we've talked about it) you're right. Because the weakness of planning (for me at least) is that no plan is perfect. And eventually you're going to have to start doing as opposed to planning - and, in the words of Herman Von Moltke the Elder - 'no plan ever survives contact with the enemy.' So it's all down to how much imperfection each individual needs before we do our own Leeeeeroy!

Debbie's picture

Interestingly I am a pantster when it isn't likely to end in my death, unlike yourself who is indeed not entirely happy unless, once ascertaining that I am otherwise occupied in a fight for my life, sneaking off to go and find more monsters. I then have to find your  squishy carcass and kill in vengeance for your untimely demise ( or timely seeing as how you ran towards them screaming " Kill me, kill me")

 So yes I call Leeroy and oh by the way, giggling like a girly while I rage at you as you lie in a dessicated heap  on the desert floor is very...umm.. girly

Graeme's picture

There. You see what I have to put up with? (Evil Grin).

DM's picture

I like to just have a general outline, divided into sections.  Then I like the book to take me where I need to go.  This was a very interesting blog, dear friend.

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