Which is more important, character or plot?

Some people think character is most important, others think plot is the most important, but you really can’t separate the two. Plot is what happens to a character, what a character does, or both. You cannot have a character without a plot. To show who or what a character is, you need to show the character acting, and that is plot. You also cannot have a plot without a character. If an unknown planet is coming toward earth, that might be newsworthy, but it’s not a story until you have characters reacting to the coming planet. How is it going to change their lives? What do they do to prepare for the coming cataclysm? What happens to them as a consequence of their actions? That’s what makes a story.

Here are some responses from others authors about whether character or plot is more important. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with J. Conrad Guest, author of Backstop and One Hot January

For me, the most essential quality of a good story is characters with whom I can connect. Finding a good story to write is easy; but writing about characters the reader cares about is more difficult. Hannibal Lecter is one of the most demented characters ever conceived, yet he was fascinating, a train wreck away from which we want to look but can’t.

From an interview with Joylene Nowell Butler, Author of “Broken but not Dead”

You need good characters your reader can relate to almost immediately. They talk about plot-driven vs. character-driven stories, but honestly you can’t have one without the other. Readers want to live vicariously through your characters, but first they need to trust you, trust that you’ll take them on a journey they’ll connect to with characters they care about. Even if what you’re asking them to believe takes place on a foreign planet with outrageous settings and descriptions, if you do your job correctly, it won’t matter how strange the setting or how weird-looking the residing peoples are, human nature can transcend all that weirdness and endear any reader quickly and for the duration of the story. Think “Dune”, “Harry Potter”, or “Wizard of Oz”.

So, in your opinion, which is more important, character or plot? (You can respond as a reader or a writer.)

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

Three Discussions with Me!

One of the real joys of my Daughter Am I blog tour has been the people I’ve had a chance to talk to. Dave Ebright, author of Bad Latitude was kind enough to be a host — twice — and he also followed my tour. How cool is that! He left a string of questions for me at Bobby Ozuna’s blog where I was being interviewed, and what ensued was a fascinating discussion. Well, fascinating to me. I like knowing how other writers work and how they think.

Dave: A few Qs, Pat – if you don’t mind:
Do you outline 1st?
Do you start at the beginning & write through to the end?
Book signings – Love ‘em or hate ‘em?
Favorite – 1st draft? Rewrites? Editing? or … uhm… Marketing?
Least favorite???
Character or plot? What do you consider your strength?
Coffee Tea or Vodka? (Kidding)
Thanks Bobby for having Pat as your awesome guest. Good interview.

Pat: How long have you been saving these questions to ask me, Dave?

Dave: Right off the top of my head — I was curious. You seem to really have your act together.

Pat: As for your answers — I don’t outline first. I know the beginning, the end, the general idea of the story. I start at the beginning, thinking out each step of the way as I go. The only time I deviate is that somewhere in the middle I write the end. Don’t know why. Perhaps it gives me the push I need to get through the murky middle.

Dave: That’s exactly how I do it. I make some changes during the rewrite / editing, but the story is the story.

Pat: Book signings — so far I haven’t done one. There are no bookstores around here, and I don’t seem to be able to get together with the librarians to plan an event there.

Dave:  I was scared to death with my first signing (there are pictures on my FaceBook from the one at the St Augustine Lighthouse) Fortunately, I write for kids & relate well (was a coach for many years), so I’m sorta in my element.

Pat: There are only two parts of the whole writing  process that are difficult for me — getting motivated to write and then incessant copyediting after I’ve written the book. Other than that, I enjoy the whole process. Or maybe not. If I did, I’d be writing! I like promotion, but whatever I’m doing doesn’t seem to be effective. At least not yet. I have hopes, though.

Dave: My problem is time – I’m not one for sitting down for only an hour or so. When I get into it — I’m good for several hours. Editing, I’m okay with snippets, but I print everything, mark it up with red pen & then make changes on the word doc. (several times).

Pat: That’s my problem, too. Some people can write in fits and starts, and few minutes here and a few minutes there, but not me. It takes a while for me to get into the proper frame of mind. That’s why getting motivated is so difficult for me — I know that I have to make a real commitment not just on blocks of time but for the year it takes for me to write a novel.

Pat: As for your question about character or plot: character and plot are pretty much the same thing in my books. Character determines plot, plot determines character.

Dave: I get most compliments about characters & plot twists. Love ‘the I didn’t see that coming’ reaction.

Pat: As for what’s my strength, that’s up to my readers to decide. Dialogue is the easiest thing for me to write, though.

Dave: Love dialogue with lots of quips & one liners. Current work includes conversations with a dead pirate (Calico Jack Rackham) which has been a blast to write.

Pat:  What do I drink? No coffee, no tea, no vodka. I’m strictly water with an occasional hot chocolate.

Dave: I am a coffee-holic.

Pat: Whew! I think I answered all your question!

Dave: Sorry – didn’t mean to be a pain. I just admire your ability to provoke thought. I’ve enjoyed your blog tour. Don’t worry though, I’m not a wacko stalker. Hah!

Pat: You weren’t a pain, Dave. This was fun. I’ve liked your impromptu parts of my tour, first the article on your blog, and now this conversation.

Dave: I’m anxious to buy your book. I went online to order from 2nd Wind using my wife’s PayPal account but, since I’m out of town, the shipping address didn’t match up with the account & that, apparently, screwed them up. I’ll be home in a week or so & I’ll order it then.

Keep up the good work Pat. What I’ve read of your work so far is excellent & your blog posts are always entertaining & informative.

Pat: Thank you, Dave! That was fun. If anyone wants to answer Dave’s questions, I’d like to hear your responses!

The second discussion of the day is taking place at James Rafferty’s blog. I met James at Gather.com where we are members of a couple of writing group. We are talking about contests and the difficulty of straddling genres. You can find James and me here: Collaborative Interview with Pat Bertram

The third discussion of the day is my weekly live chat. We meet every Thursday night at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will all stop by to talk. You can find me here tonight: No Whine, Just Champagne discussion #80 

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