Interwoven

You can just look at the picture to see what I was trying to say. Click on the picture for another point of view.

Whisky and water. Water into wine. Wine and song. Song and Dance. One thing follows another, all interconnected.

Okay, that was a bit of a stretch but I think it works well enough. At least enough to illustrate a point. Character and plot are interconnected, one feeds the other and vice versa.

I’m aware that one can tell a story without developing characters to the point where they are actual people. I’m also aware that writers can conceive ‘character studies’ that are not really stories, but more like scenes and vignettes. I don’t write that way. I’m not sure that I can write that way. Either way. I prefer stories about people doing things for a reason. I like motivations into actions and reactions that muddle things up a bit more when it’s necessary.

I tend to focus more on character and hope that informs the plot than the other way ‘round. That’s not to say that I don’t come up with a plot before I develop characters, but once I’ve got the characters outlined, I start putting them through their paces.

This goes back a little bit to how I develop my characters, I suppose, but I don’t want to get into all that again. (Click this link if you’re interested.) Rather, let’s take the opportunity to debate a little which is more important: plot or character?

Pretty sure I’ve already told you what I think about that up above, but for clarity’s sake I’ll be blunt: a good story has both and that’s all there is to it. I don’t think a good writer will sacrifice one for the other because as a reader that’s boring. A ‘story’ that’s all character doesn’t move me. Oh, the characters themselves may be interesting but if there’s no story to go with them, what’s the point?

Conversely, a story without any characters is unusual and painstaking to write and difficult to read.

There’s a chemistry between the people – whether fictional or not – involved in how things happen one after another. One person is responsible for the bad things, one for the good things and several are somewhere in the middle. Where they are and what they’re doing there are the essential bits, the things that readers remember. Characters are made memorable by the things they do in reaction what other characters are doing.

So it’s important to me that both work together and work together well. Characters who surprise me are engaged in the plot, advancing the story with their actions which are dictated by their makeup. Which is dictated by me, who supposedly knows the plot and that makes me the god of the story.

That must be the whiskey taking over. Next thing you know I’ll be dancing and that’s something none of you want to see.

 

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

 

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