Inductive vs. Deductive Plotting

Over at All The Worlds Our Page, Kristen is talking about how love scenes (or at the very least kissing scenes–depending on your genre) are a really great way to get to know your characters on the front end of a book.  And she’s right–there is very little that’s more illustrutive about the personality of a person and their relationship ship with someone else than when they are exposed, emotionally, physically, and spiritually (yeah, I said it) during the act of love making.  It even says a lot if it’s NOT lovemaking and is more a quick and dirty [insert that word I probably shouldn’t say on the internet].  All of it tells you something about your characters.  The post is a good read, so take a minute and go check it out.

Back?  Okay, great.  So Kristen, as well as Jen Hendren, are both friends of mine from Mission:Accountability.  And they are both self-proclaimed chunksters.  As opposed to the eternal Pantser vs. Plotter debate, this is an issue of Linear vs. Writing in chunks in no particular order.  Being a staunchly linear writer myself even during my pantsing days, the whole idea of writing an entire novel in chunks that are not in chronological order seems like utter lunacy.  Totally does not compute.  If a scene for later in the story occurs to me, I’ll usually take notes so I don’t forget it, and come back to it later when it’s “time”.  But clearly this is a viable method of writing for some people.  Having read full length works from both Kristen and Jen, it definitely works for them.

In any event, Kristen’s post this morning set off a little lightbulb about, maybe, why or how this chunkster thing works.

Let’s take a moment to talk about logic.  There are, in general, two types of logic: inductive vs. deductive.

Inductive reasoning is what is sometimes referred to as “bottom up” logic.  As you can see from the illustration over here, with inductive reasoning you begin with specific observations of facts, examples, and so forth, and as you think your way through the problem or whatever, you narrow those facts into the Main Points.  From those main points you draw a conclusion.  Think of it as narrowing focus. Going from specific observation to general theories

This is the method often used to develop scientific theories.


Deductive reasoning works the other way, going from the more general to the more specific.  This is sometimes called the “top down” approach.  From a science standpoint, you begin with a theory about something, which you then focus on more specific hypotheses that can be tested.  Then that’s narrowed down even more when you collect observations or data that will allow us to either confirm or disprove our original theory.

So how does this apply to the Linear/Chunkster issue?

I think it’s a good analogy for how each of us approaches plotting.  Linear plotters start at the beginning, where they have general knowledge of characters that gradually moves toward more specific and intimate detail as the story progresses.  They often get to know characters in the same way the reader does–as the story unfolds.  So it might be suggested that linear writers are Deductive Plotters.

Chunksters work the other way.  The particular scenes that they hop around writing tend to be pivotal.  They are the specifics, the details that really illustrate something about their characters.  And they progress from these pivotal scenes toward a broader overall plot.  So I’d say that they practice Inductive Plotting.  That actually makes some sense to me–particularly for character driven plots (at which both Jen and Kristen excel).

So inquiring minds want to know.  Are you a linear writer or a chunkster?  Do you use inductive or deductive plotting?

And if you haven’t already, please hop over to Pots and Plots and check out the AMAZING new design layout created for me by Christine of CHYAssociates.


4 thoughts on “Inductive vs. Deductive Plotting

  1. Yes! This makes perfect sense. You bring something else into focus for me as well.

    I’m a hybrid, I think. I understand my story from front to back, but I don’t write in a line. I chunk – but I write in sections. First I chunk my way around the first part of my story, until I have a more-or-less finished first draft of that. Then I approach the middle of the book, then the ending. I like this method because I find it easier to develop characters and relationships.

    Having said that, if I want to write a scene that I know is from the middle of the book, I do. This helps pull me forward, and keeps me from floundering around too long in the beginning. Not that I would do that for THREE YEARS. Any more. (S)

  2. I too am a hybrid, but not quite the same way. During the plotting process (which is pretty extensive for me) I’ll have specific moments from various parts of the book (opening scene, intensive scenes, bits of dialogue, etcetera that I may not even know where it goes) come to mind. If it comes, I write it down. So when I begin writing, I start with the opening scene and work linearly, inserting the bits and pieces I have already written as I go. Sometimes I find that what I have already written works great, or sometimes it’s the right moment but from the wrong pov or something, so I modify. It really does help draw me forward. I also find that sometimes when I’m actually in the linear mode, a scene from later will be very vivid in my head, so that comes first, then I go back to wherever I was. That way I know what I’m working toward emotionally or whatever, and it gives me better motivation to slog forward when the going gets tough.
    BTW, I had never heard the word “chunkster.” I just thought I was weird! 🙂

  3. I’m linear… I tried the whole chunking thing and got into a right mess. I wrote book two before I’d completely edited book one, and have to change the first few chapters of book two, plus various character elements throughout, because of all the changes I made to book one during the mass of re-writes! Confused? Think how I feel 😛 Another great post. X

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.