I am a pantser all the way. I recently learned how much, when I sat down with my friend, who is an expert plotter, to brainstorm a project. We want to write together.
We both had the basic, bare bones of the story idea clear in our heads and tried to get to the next layer of details within that basic frame.
It became apparent very quickly that we approached this problem from very different points of view and that, in turn, lead me to analyze the way I work in some more detail.
Whenever I come up with a new story, I start with character. Usually I ask myself: “What if I put a person like this in a situation like that?”
From then on, the story unfolds, branches out, and rolls through the hills and valleys of action and refection. Other characters show up and demand attention. The main character or characters will have to react to them and might have to change course, depending on the things they learn and have to face. Those interactions define my characters further. Many times the story plots itself, because my characters can only react to a certain situation in this one way. Because anything else would be (TADA!!!) out of character.
If I had to plot a story first, without knowing who the people are in it, I would go bonkers.
As for ideas for stories: They abound in our daily lives. I have so many ideas for stories, that I don’t think I have the time to write them all down. I get them from looking at a photo on tumblr, listen to a song, remembering things that happened to me years ago, talking with friends, reading two or three books and combining aspects of them in new ways, talking with my kids, or traveling the world.
Those ideas either work their way quickly to the forefront or germinate for a while and then come forward. Usually the ones that had time to develop a little bit longer, yield more fully formed characters to begin with. Characters that keep me up at night, begging me to write their story down. But sometimes I get to know them just by writing about them and going with them. And getting to know a new character who is experiencing a new story is always an exciting time.
So how do you develop your stories? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start with a theme, or an idea? Do you outline each chapter before you write it, or do you let the story happen? What works for you?