Character vs. Plot

Focus on character over plot. I think this is the oldest, and most over-used, writing advice, besides ye olde nugget of, “if you want to be a writer then you need to write and everything else takes care of itself.” But it’s true. Both are true. Once you have committed to writing, what’s next? Create compelling characters. Obviously plot matters, but depending on who you listen to, there are anywhere from 3 to 33 story arcs. That’s really about it. So great stories come from the infinite amount of characters that can be created. Yes, one character might be only slightly different from another because they carry an old photograph in their wallet instead of a cut out from the newspaper, but that one difference could mean everything, depending on how you use it.

Character(s) beget plot(s). What one character does in one story could and should be completely different from what another character would do in the same story. Thus, you might have the same plot but it changes with what the characters decide to do.

Have you ever read or watched a story and felt some dissonence about a character’s decision? I would argue that is because the character(s) acted outside of their established pattern of behaviour for the sake of saving the plot. The elements of the story don’t jive, thus leaving the reader or viewer ill-at-ease with the story they are experiencing. The writer sacrificed the beauty of his or her original character for the contrived beauty of the unoriginal plot. There are also many other reasons why the story wasn’t viewed favourably, and I would argue that a lot of those have to do with the perspective of the reader/viewer, but I think the majority of the time it is because the plot drove the characters as opposed to the characters – the living and breathing aspects of the story – driving the plot.

And that’s all I really have to say about that. At least until the next time I post about it in 2015.

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About jtkwriting

Writer living in Toronto. "Sneak out of your window darling, let's live like outlaws honey." View all posts by jtkwriting

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