Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's the Plot, Stupid

Oh my, it’s been a while since I last wrote. Life has been busy but in a very good way. I just got back from 10 days in the British Virgin Islands on the lovely island of Tortola, which my husband and I have visited three times. It’s not an island for those craving night life. The slow, plodding way of life lends itself to rum punches, long naps in the sun and plenty of time for reading.

I foolishly brought my laptop thinking I’d either make enormous progress on the novel or start a new one for National Novel Writing Month. Well, I did neither. It was my vacation and writing seemed like work. This realization makes me a little sad but I’m giving myself a break. I NEEDED REST!

I do have something writing-related to report. The resort had a library of bestsellers with suntan lotion grease marks, dog-eared pages and airline ticket stubs as bookmarkers.
While on vacation, I read five paperbacks (almost six). The authors were biggies: Picoult, Baldacci, Higgins Clark, Grisham, Cornwell.

The bestsellers were plot- not character-driven, although the books had extremely well-developed characters (including the long-standing medical examiner Kaye Scarpetta). The authors hit you over the head with the issue or conflict right off the bat and continued to remind you of it. Characterization was secondary and flowed from the storyline.

This may seem like ABCs to veteran writers but for those of us who also drift toward literary fiction, characters can take over our works. We become so closely associated with them that we don’t stop to put ourselves in our readers’ shoes. They might just be asking “Who cares?” unless we give them a reason to read more. That involves putting our characters up against personal or physical challenges.

Have you tried to balance plot and character in your works? I’d love to hear about it.

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