Personality and Writing Style

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by Martha Rogers

I’ve read a lot of discussion about organization and writing. For those of us who are SOTP (seat of the pants) writers, writing an outline or any of the other myriad organizational strategies boggles our minds. However as I have progressed, I’ve found that a little bit of both is necessary to get a story done in time to meet a deadline.

Does our personality have something to do with how we organize or don’t organize our writing? Does having a laid-back sanquine personality lead to being a “pantster” writer and panic as deadlines near? Is the choleric personality the one who must organize down to the last detail and be completely in charge of the story? Does the melancholy worry about every detail and word to be perfect as he/she writes? Is the phlegmatic writer more calm and relaxed and able to get things done on time?

New things crop into a story, new characters step in and wish to be recognized, and events occur and come as a complete surprise to “pantster” writers. That still happens even when I do loosely plan my chapters. Usually my chapter outlines are one to two sentences as to what I want to happen in that chapter. What actually happens in the chapter comes as I write the characters and the scenes.

Randy Ingermanson has a “Snowflake” organizational strategy for organizing stories and plots that many love and use, but I could never get my head wrapped around it. The reason for it is that I am sanquine and it took too long to organize and actually begin writing the story. Even when I tried to do charts and graphs, my imagination would kick in and things happened that had no place in the outline.

Whether we organize or just dig in and write, we all have some idea of where our story is going and what we want to accomplish in the end. If we don’t know our destination, we will have difficulty along the journey. Sometimes we can get so bogged down with the details that we lose sight of the story and where it’s headed.

Writing a synopsis and chapter events helps with the organization, but it’s the surprises along the way that make writing the book fun for me. Do extremely organized writers experience surprises as they write? Some with whom I have spoken so, but a few others grimace in horror. It all has to go as they planned or they panic.

Think about your own personality and how it affects your writing. Does your personality reflect how you approach writing and how you organize? Do they have anything in common?

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas. Summer Dream, Autumn Song, Winter Promise, and Spring Hope, her new series, Seasons of the Heart are now available. In addition to her works of fiction, Martha has stories in a number of compilations as well as devotional contributions to several anthologies and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex, where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending football, baseball, and basketball games when one of the grandchildren is playing or performing.

Comments 0

  1. Yes, I write by the seat of my pants…in real life I play an organized person. With seven children, a husband, and everybody doing something–music, sports, theatre, work, rebelling–I can’t afford not to be.

    But as I write this, I’ve come to realize that I do take my organizational skills with me when I write. Sprawled and relaxed in my chair, I love to type out the chaos in my head, shaping and molding character, plot, scene, conflict…to create and yes, organize a story, that will be enjoyable and sensible to the reader.

  2. That’s great, Charmaine. Organization is the key with a family and all the activities they have. One of these days maybe I’ll organize my writing. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

  3. Great post to read as I begin a new wip. I fall somewhere between the lines. Plot some, panster some. As long as I know my characters and their goals, I do fine. I do wish sometimes I were more organized!

  4. I’m a planner. I always plan to some extent just to find out what story wants to be told and/or which characters have the best angle on a story.

    But I also experiences surprises. I’m nowhere near omniscient so no matter how much planning happens before writing begins, there is always, in every story, a moment when the unexpected occurs.

    Just like life.

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