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Plot and Character

Happy Columbus Day, everyone. Hope you're enjoying the lovely fall weather (unless you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere where I hope you're enjoying the lovely spring weather).

Sit back and enjoy a cup of tea
It's almost the halfway mark to NaNoWriMo, and I have yet to sign up, but I will soon. One of the ways to help you prepare for NaNoWriMo is to flesh out the structure of your novel. There are two primary types of approaches to writing a novel one is plot-driven and the other is character-driven.

Plot vs Character Driven

Plot-driven are those novels which the plot line is the most important element. Genre fiction such as mysteries, romance and action-adventure often fall into this category because the characters don't matter as much as Action A happens to lead to Action B which concludes in Action C.

Character-driven are novels where the character is the most important element and situations revolve around the character's actions. Most of the literary genre falls into this category.

Another way to describe the difference is to see which element the author gravitates towards first. For me, I tend to create characters - physical appearance, personality and family history are often present in the initial inspiration. Sometimes it's easy to see the character in a particular genre or time period, other times it's harder, but characters come first for me. It can be hard for me to develop a story around a character that doesn't wander aimlessly.

For other writers, the plot line develops first, and they can often have a variety of story lines running around in their heads. For them it can be hard to develop well-rounded characters instead of stock characters, what my mom refers too as the same character different actor syndrome.

Ways around

Since each style has an inherent weakness (the other item), there are ways to navigate around the weaknesses. For a plot-driven story line finding a character generator might work out well. Other things to consider could be:

  • describe character's flaws before strengths
  • switch up the expected
  • focus on a minor character

Developing the character readers enjoy is important and can sometimes change the plot line.

On the other hand, for character driven stories, plot lines can be somewhat elusive until the character's wants are pinned down. To help work out the plot line some things to consider include:

  • list what the character wants or doesn't want
  • discover what the antagonist wants or doesn't want
  • write a scene with protagonist and antagonist 

As you work out the basic structure of your novel, you'll discover new and interesting twists in the story or character's life. It's part of the fun of writing - seeing what turns up.


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