Which is more important to you: plot or character?

I can barely separate and prioritize plot/character when I write, as they are so closely intertwined in fiction. Nevertheless, I consider the prime purpose of writing fiction to be storytelling, so “plot” gets the nod, followed by character and then setting, also vitally important to fiction.

By definition, a piece of fiction (novel or short story) moves one or more characters through settings. Ideally, the character undergoes conflicts at various points in the plot until s/he must conform to the various pressures – i. e., change – and then move on through life. This process is essentially the same in a novel or short story, although by definition (again) a short story revolves around only one main character who learns one truth about life (at the climax), whereas a novel involves several major characters who may experience a number of “a-HA!” moments when learning various truths about life.

A character’s personality, therefore, depends up on what happens to him/her and how he reacts as the plot progresses, although a character can certainly influence the progression of the story.

Nevertheless, without plot a story is not a story; without character it is a description of setting; and in essence character and plot must combine to produce a story which takes place in a setting.

Complicated, yes – but so is life, and since Poe allegedly invented the short story, the process has worked, and the two fictional forms of novel and short story have entertained readers well.

Now retired after 34 years of teaching English, Spanish, and journalism in public, private, and government schools. Hobbies: DX'ing (Google it!), gardening, collecting a lot of crap that now fills my house (I bet I have older computers than anyone who has better sense!).

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