Plot vs. Character: Save the eggs; torch my metaphor

“If your story was a house on fire, what would you run in and save?”

Brad Bird ~ Writer/Director

(Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible – Ghost Patrol)

Plot vs. Character? No doubt in my mind, I’d save the characters.  Here’s why:  character drives plot.  The “stuff” of story, the desire that drives choices and actions made under the pressure of dilemma, are all expressed through character.  If you don’t have them, you don’t have plot, and ultimately, no story.  Characters are the eggs, if you will; plots are the chickens they hatch. (Which came first is another post, but it’s the egg per my high school zoology teacher, Mr. Highfill, an amazing character in his own right, so I’m going with egg.)

But I digress.  Yes, I’m giving the edge to the egg, but what about that chicken? Is it just crowing in the morning, pecking at the ground, taking a nap, running around the barnyard, going to sleep, and doing it all over again the next day?   This is not plot, this is not story.  This is activity not action.  The chicken that comes out of that egg has got to be top notch, too, or no one is going to hang out in the barnyard to see what happens.

To put it all together, your eggs need to have Grade A burning desires, inner and outer conflicts that create dilemmas, through which they make choices to try to reach their goal, and thus, advance the story.  These choices and their results create the chicken, which in turn acts on the characters (eggs) and so on to the last action in the series, the end of the road.  Perhaps just before Sunday dinner when the horse, who, against all odds, has fallen in love with the chicken, kicks the axe out of the farmer’s hands, and, together, horse and chicken ride off into the sunset.

So, to take this horrible pun to the end: go lay some fresh eggs; the chickens will be tasty.


Mom, writer, girl.

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