When it comes to writing tips, plot seems to be of the utmost concern. Mooderino, Nanowrimo, and Yeah!Write are great sources for such guides, and while they also write about characterization and many other topics in depth, plot is usually portrayed as the foundation of a…
You know, I like this Erika, but I have to both agree with you and disagree.
See, plot can drive things just as beautifully from an entirely different perspective. See, Asimov in his Foundation introduces characters acceptably, but leaves them mostly flat, abandoning them quickly in order to address the next big event in the history of his universe. The result is much like a puppet show, you’re right in that, but the idea that the resulting puppet show is anything short of art is a fallacy. The world building alone, not to mention the masterful blend of action and philosophy into the plot lend that particular book an aura of greatness to be aspired to. If you haven’t read it and you care at all about science fiction, history, or philosophy, add it to your summer reading list. That goes for anyone. You can punch me if you hate it.
I have a bigger issue with this argument of “Plot-Driven versus Character-Driven”, and that stems from the fact that it is presented as a binary sort of thing. See, Melville’s Moby Dick (I love it, but I won’t make you read it) steps on both of those definitions, and is still widely considered the first modern novel. Sure, Melville presents some greatly memorable characters, and sure it has some truly harrowing scenes that drive the action forward, but anyone who’s listened to Ismael’s ponderings out there on the waves knows the drive of the book isn’t the characters or the plot; at times Melville takes an extreme left turn against both of those and just lets his words wash over you in beautiful but confusing prose. The master over-writer, it’s the things behind the plot and characters that Melville wants to say; it’s the philosophy, drive, and voice of the writer that makes memorable writing.
It’s an audience that makes great writing, or even Literature.
You can’t choose your audience, but if you feel like you’ve found your voice, there’s always exceptions to any and every rule in art, and often the people we remember most are the ones who make their mark by forgetting everything traditional and making their own mistakes, even if it turns out they’re older than anyone remembers. It’s not plot versus character, it’s not good writing versus bad, it’s effective communication of your purpose versus failing that. And remember, we writers, artists in general, aren’t above lying about the meaning of our work after the fact.
I say all this because, Erika, you and many others are beautiful writers, and you need to do more writing to write and less time thinking about what makes “good” writing. If these are the rules you live by, by all means go out and make your words sing with the intent of them, but don’t believe for a second that they’re the only viable rules out there.
-Stephen T. Kennedy
He doesn’t care if any of you think it’s crap, you can read his online novella right here on Tumblr: At the Foot of Diablo