Weekly Writer Wisdom: July 4, 2017

(Look for this week’s #WeeklyWriterWisdom questions after the jump.)

This Week’s Questions: When you write stories, do you typically focus on characters or plot? Have you ever run into an instance where the story seemed to flow naturally because the characters “took over” and guided the rest of the story? If you’re a reader instead of a writer, do you prefer plot-driven or character-driven stories? What other thoughts did you have as you read this quote?

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15 thoughts on “Weekly Writer Wisdom: July 4, 2017

  1. My WIP is YA Dieselpunk and basically a long voyage, all about momentum and big action set-pieces, with my characters (and readers) along for the ride, literally, since they are mostly the passengers and crew of a huge ocean liner. But the characters also drive and steer the ship, and the plot. And the ship itself is almost a character in its own right.

    I’m more planner than pantser, and more plotter than characterizer, but I always create the main ‘I-Guy’ (or ‘I-Gal’) and some other characters early on. Certainly my WIP is very different from either of Harper Lee’s novels.

    I read and enjoy both plot and character-driven stories. Thanks for the questions, Sara!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, John! 🙂

      Your insights here remind me of both A.K.’s and Mandie’s: how genre fiction is often plot-oriented, but also heavily influenced by the characters’ actions. Then again, a story can’t work all that well with passive characters, right?

      I also like how you mentioned that the ship in your WIP is its own character. That’s really important, especially if (from the sounds of things) your characters spend most of the story on that ship. And I can imagine how the ship could be an antagonist of sorts for its passengers…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I write genre fiction, so it tends to be plot-driven, but that’s not to say that the characters don’t take over in the story. As soon as my characters hit the page, they tend to do whatever they want, despite what I originally had planned for them.
    I’m sure there are exceptions, but I tend to think of genre fiction as plot-driven, while literary fiction is character-driven. When reading, I’m drawn to genre fiction, but I have read many books that I have enjoyed and loved that fall into the literary category. I kind of ❤ book a little bit (okay, a lot). 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think all writers kind of ❤ books a little bit. 😉

      I've noticed the same thing, too. Genre fiction tends to be more plot-driven – though I've read quite a few fantasy stories that are more character-driven. And that's one of the big differences I've noticed between my previous manuscript and my current WIP. The first one was more plot-driven, but the new one is more character-driven. I guess it all depends on what kind of story is being told.

      "As soon as my characters hit the page, they tend to do whatever they want, despite what I originally had planned for them."

      Isn't that what always happens? We think we know where a story is heading and what the characters are going to do, and then they end up surprising us. That's happened to me before, too. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I find plot comes easier to me than character and tends to be more of a driving factor. External forces of plot set the characters in motion, but where the characters go once they’re moving is more determined by character. I hope. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • That makes sense. And I think each writer has their preferred way of writing: some aim for plot-oriented stories, and others for character-oriented stories. And some feel comfortable with either approach. But for a plot-oriented story: Yes, I agree that the character should drive the plot once he/she gets involved in the main conflict. The conflict is what draws him/her in, and it’s up to him/her to resolve things and find a way out, so to speak.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Usually, the characters come first for me. Then the plot. I have an idea for two characters at the moment (shiny new idea) and I’m trying to work out what they’re doing, and the world they’re living in. I like character-driven stuff, usually, the best. When I write, the characters certainly drive the plot. When I just let go and write without an outline, I feel like it does “flow”. I love that feeling. But it ends with a lot of plot holes. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An excellent question, Sara, and one I’m always interested in hearing writers discuss. My starting point is always the character – a person pops into my head and I wonder what happens next if xyz befell her – what would she do next? How would she respond? And then what would happen?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Questions like that are always a great way to start a story, aren’t they? No matter if a story is character- or plot-driven, it always seems to be born from questions like “What if this happened?” or “What if this character was pulled into that conflict?” And then more questions come, creating the snowballing that turns into something much larger. So, in short, my process isn’t a whole lot different in that manner – and with the new WIP in particular, it started with the character as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I feel like I give both equal attention. If the plot gets too much precedence then the characters can just seem like devices. If the characters get too much focus then the plot can seem to drag. Does that make sense? Thanks for sharing!


    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think it’s a bit more complicated. Characters drive the plot, but also the plot creates characters. It makes them react, change, grow, or even display their innermost secrets or weaknesses.
    I agree that characters are important and if they feel bland, no plot is going to save the story, but at the same time I’ve seen some writers so focused on their characters that they forget the book has too have some story too. (I guess it’s more of a risk for those who are pantsers.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very true. Not only are plot and character equally important, but they impact one another. A plot doesn’t resolve itself, and characters aren’t going to show all of their facets if nothing happens.

      It’s funny, because now that I’m writing a magical realism story (and reading MR more often) after working on high / epic fantasy for so long, I’ve noticed a huge difference between the two genres. Epic fantasy tends to be more plot-driven, while magical realism is more character-driven. There are exceptions to both, of course, but that seems to be their natural… inclination, I guess? (If that’s the right word to use?)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Good observation! Epic fantasy shows “huge impact” events, so even if the characters are important, they themselves feel minor compared to the world-changing processes.
        And MR, in a way so close to the non-speculative fiction and thus down to Earth, focuses on people and their problems.

        Liked by 2 people

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