There are two kinds of writers. One is a planner, also known as a plotter, while the other is a pantser.
To the uninitiated, planners or plotters don’t start writing until they got all the details about the story they want to tell down in a massive mind map or something. It is just as the terms meant. And there is nothing wrong with that as it’s just what they do. Pantser on the other hand doesn’t really plan and simply just write, allowing the story to take them anywhere. They are literally flying by the seat of their pants. Planning for pantsers is just not something they do.
For me, I’m a pantser and really hate planning. The very act feels very unnatural and boring.
But today, I was introduced to something that I thought could be useful as a tool to help pantser. It’s known as a Fishbone diagram or officially known as Ishikawa diagram. From the outset, it look like a really simple tool that doesn’t seem to boring when used.
Now, I know it is really a tool for product design or quality defect detection. It is also used in certain kind of investigative purpose like incident investigation and resolution. So you may wonder how it can be applied to planning out a piece of writing.
Here’s how I thought it could be used...
For the purpose of this discussion, we will be using the fishbone diagram above for illustration.
Let’s say you are going to write a piece of fiction that has some kind of conflict or problem to resolve. You can put that conflict or problem at the fish head.
Then draw the ribs out from the spine. The purpose of so call bones of the fish is to allow you to identify the causes that ultimately lead to that conflict. You can treat each rib as a category. The boxes at the end of each rib could be used to list the categories such as characters, location and/or incidents. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use it really.
Once you have the categories identified, you can draw horizontal lines out from ribs where you use them to create just enough detail for you to write your story.
And that’s all.
After that, you can refer to the diagram if you do happen to encounter some kind of writer’s block while writing. And since it isn’t so detailed, you get to have the freedom to change your story on the fly while it also ensure you stay somewhat grounded and have some kind of reference material.
Lastly, because it’s such a simple diagram, it doesn’t really bore you to death as a pantser.
I also didn’t forget about you planners. You guys can also use this as a complementary tool to whatever they are using now to write.
With that, I hope it’s helpful to you.
Updated 2020-May-22: Parts of the content was rewritten and fishbone diagram added.