Character and plot

I met up with a couple of writer friends at the coffee shop yesterday. Not so much for writing, but for chatting.

J. and I are in the same place…we’re at the beginning of new projects, but we have opposite problems. She’s got a great character and voice (okay, I haven’t actually seen her new piece…but she told me all about her spunky new character…and I know her work well enough to know that anything she writes is going to have voice), but she’s frustrated because she has no plot. I have plenty of plot (of course, I do…I’m writing a murder mystery! Things HAVE to happen in a murder mystery!), but no character or voice. I am simply moving my stick figures around in my plot. And hoping my character will reveal herself to me as I move through this first draft and I can bring out her voice in the next draft.

I told J. it’s too bad she can’t just plunk her character into my plot. (Well, except for the fact her character really doesn’t belong in my plot…she’s got a middle grade character and my story requires a YA character.) I don’t understand why J. is having a problem…she’s already got a character! A FABULOUS character. Just put that character in a story already and start writing!

But it’s not that easy for her. She probably listened to my character woes and thought, “what’s YOUR problem? Characters are easy.” And they are for her. Characters just come to her, fully formed. She’s got seven or eight of them floating around in her head and no story to put them in.

It’s interesting how differently two authors work…

4 thoughts on “Character and plot

  1. Good Lord. I blogged about character vs. plot (a false dichotomy, but one with real effects on us) and, um, stuff – it’s not one of my better organized posts, but there’s a reason for that – today, too. Something floating on the latest front coming down the middle of the country?

    Don’t worry – your plot will generate the characters you need, and there’s all kinds of tried and true tricks for getting to know them better to choose from. Mostly it comes down to who they have to be in order to fulfill their roles in the plot. You’re getting at them through the plot and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Your friend’s problem can almost always be solved by asking one of two questions, depending on the genre.

    What does this character want more than anything and why doesn’t she have it?
    Or:
    What’s the worst possible thing I could do to this character?

    If she doesn’t have the answers, this character needs to be thrown back into the pool to grow up some more, and a new one fished for.

  2. It’s the same with me and my critique partner–he’s an amazing plotter, and for me, the actual writing (not to mention the actual typing!) is much easier. I can’t wait till we work on a project together, combining those strengths!

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