Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Burning Question

Are you primarily a character or plot driven writer? Have you ever had a book or project where you've switched your SOP? How did it go? Do you think one style is better or easier than the other?


Debra Dixon said...

I'm a character-driven writer. I believe in plot. I believe in the Hero's Journey, but what gives that journey specific resonance, specific relevance is the character. So for me a book always begins with character. I'll have a concept of where the plot is going but I don't flesh that out until I've nailed down my characters.

I've tried many times to deviate from my personal method of writing. Always in an attempt to "get it done faster" but I've found that I write how I write. There's no changing that. At least not for me. The process just seems to work better if I don't fight "how I come to story."

It takes a while to develop the process or method that works best. We all use an amalgam of techniques learned along the way. And we all probably throw in new things from time to time.

On rare occasions I've known a couple of authors completely change their process. To go from the computer to writing in longhand first! I can't imagine that but it works for them. So, that's their "new" process.

Betina Krahn said...

Me, too, Deb. I'm first a character person. . . but I have to know what's going to happen to them (plot) before I can really get on with the book. So I start with character-- but always with a time and place in mind. . . because so much of character is shaped by surroundings. I can't imagine --say, a female bounty hunter-- without imagining her in Chicago or Caracas or Casablanca. And I have to have a sense right away of where she/he is from and whether they're happy to be from there or trying to escape all associations with it. It usually shapes up pretty quickly for me, once I have the core idea for the character.

But then I have to imagine a series of events, an arc, in which that character is majorly changed. And some elements strong enough to affect that change.

So. . . ditto to what Deb said. With a side of me.

;) Betina

Helen Brenna said...

I think I'm a plot driven writer which is probably why I'm having difficulties with my new book. It's not an action/adventure like my previous books and therefore I have no defined events driving my wonderful characters forward. Yikes!

I've always thought that being plot driven would be easier. Now, I don't know.

anne frasier said...

i used to always write character-driven books, but i switched with my first thriller which was heavily plot-driven. that book practically wrote itself, but the plot was fairly traditional. that could be the reason. i've been jumping around, testing less plot/more character, medium plot/medium character. for me i think an equal balance is best because i then have two fairly strong elements driving the book -- plot and character, and i'm not relying on one of them to carry the story.

Helen Brenna said...

Anne, where do you start then? With the plot or character? Or do you jump around on that too?

anne frasier said...

helen, the last several books have started with plot and setting. from there i decided what kind of characters would best work in a particular plot. it wasn't a conscious thing, but as i look back i now realize i did start with plot for all of my thrillers!

Betina Krahn said...

So, it makes sense that a plot-heavy book like a thriller would begin with plot. Just like it makes sense that a character-heavy book like a romance would often start with characters. But does that mean for other kinds of books? Is there a natural starting point for say, Women's Fiction? Would that be character? And in Mystery-- does plot precede all else? How about SciFi and Fantasy? It seems to me they could go either way.

In other words, do you think some genres and sub-genres lend themselves to starting a certain way? Or is that just dependent on a writer's process?

Helen Brenna said...

Betina, that seems to make some sense. I wonder if you could go so far as to say a writer's decisions to write within a particular genre or sub-genre might be based, in part, on their predispostion to plot versus character based stories?

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

anne frasier said...

i think women's fiction would be half and half. i think they have to be both character and plot driven.