Are You a Plotter, Pantser or Something Else

Aug 23, 2020 by Teresa Michael, in Essay , Writing

One of the most common questions an author is asked is – Are you a plotter or a pantser? A plotter is an author who outlines the entire novel, has the plot points defined, and knows who did the deed before she begins writing the novel. A pantser flies by the seat of her pants and sits down to the blank page with an idea, a character, or a situation but no specific plan or outline. Another term I recently heard is flashlighter, a plotter-pantser hybrid, where the author plots or outlines what’s in front of her, like the glow of a flashlight.

 I’m a hybrid, sort of like a flashlighter. I usually have a general idea and may even have a few scenes and chapters summarized in my Mariposa notebook, my Book Bible. Sometimes I know who did it, and other times the perpetrator presents himself or herself. In my upcoming novel, Deception in Mariposa Beach, I thought one person did the crime, but 20,000 words into the novel, the true culprit was illuminated.
As a mystery writer, certain sections of the novel involves intricate planning; for example, the timing of events. On the day the crime is committed In Deception in Mariposa Beach, multiple moving characters and activities needed to be planned. In my notebook, I created a detailed timeline for what I called ‘Jerry Day.’
Another bit of plotting and planning involves the victim, the commission of the crime, and the potential suspects. I created a mind map with the victim in the center. Then, I drew a spoke for each potential suspect with possible motives for each. I added the question, live or die, because, at first, I wasn’t sure if the victim was going to live or die. No spoilers here – you’ll have to read the book. Here’s what the mind map looks like:

So, when the question is posed – are you a plotter or a pantser – I usually answer with – a little bit of both.


Deception in Mariposa Beach, the third book in the Mariposa Café series, available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and paperback.