Mar 12, 2011

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Sinopia is this pantser’s delight

Have you heard of the terms “pantser” and “plotter?” These are terms some writers use to describe their particular writing styles. Pantsers just sit down and start writing with no real thought as to how the plot will evolve. They just go where the spirit and/or characters take them. Often, in my case, this process takes me into astonishingly strange areas that horrify and delight me at the same time. But all this “flying into the mist” as one author put it, is a fingernail-biting experience, and a time consuming one. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to do things the Plotter way? To outline the entire novel, know where my characters are going and write them there? Well, yes, but, try as I might this never works for me. I can spend hours on an outline, sit down at the keyboard, and find my characters have taken control of my fingers so they can fly off into the mist, outline be damned. Phooey.

Then I discovered the concept of a sinopia from reading an article written by an author who is also a pantser but wanted a bit more structure, because, you know, she actually wanted to be more productive. According to Wikipedia, a Sinopia is a reddish-brown ochre-like earth color pigment used in traditional oil painting. It is used for the cartoon or underpainting for a fresco. It is composed of iron oxides, from a kind of clay or quartz called sinople.

What does this have to do with writing? By using a sinopia or rough sketch to write to, a pantser author (such as moi) has the freedom to change, color, add details along the way until she has a finished painting, er, novel or story. It allows for those spontaneous misty excursions but provides a general direction for writing scenes. I haven’t used this method yet, but I’m excited by the possibilities. Now my flights into the mist have a flight plan so I don’t get lost or run out of fuel before I reach my destination. Now those are some things even a pantser might think is a good idea.

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