Monday, February 17, 2014

Plot vs. Characters: A writing smackdown

I have to admit something to the world. I'm a plot writer.

Much like plotters and pantsers (and the various degrees of people who fall in between those two), I believe there are two main types of people when it comes to writing: those who dream up vivid characters and then construct plot around them, and those who have fantastic plots in mind and must create characters to play into the story. (Or, as always, those who are a shade of grey and are both.)

For me, I'm a plot person. I like the idea of an interesting story, and those are the things that first grab me when I'm brainstorming my next project. So take DIVERGENT, for instance, a world where people are split into factions based on different ideals. This idea has no specific characters, but it's got the bones of conflict. This is pretty much how I construct all my stories.

Other people may get ideas for characters first. Take Batman: A rich man who lost his parents at a very young age and has a strong sense of justice. We don't really have any conflict yet, but we have a killer character.

So, after we have these initial ideas, we start filling in the holes as writers, right? For me, creating characters that fit into the world/plot, and for many others, creating conflict for the amazing character. I don't think there's a right or a wrong way with plot and characters. Both ways can make great stories. But I think starting with one or the other in mind does create interesting challenges.

I'm currently editing my WIP — the first real editing I've done on a long project. Now I've already redrafted several times to fix the plot issues I had with my first drafts, so I'm now into the developing of the craft, building sentences and paragraphs and chapters in a way that's very close to what I think they'll be in the end.

In the process, because I started with plot, I feel like I'm rediscovering and redefining who my characters are. It's exciting, and also a little scary. I'm learning so much about them that I didn't know in the past. These characters are only just becoming whole in my eyes.

It's a pretty cool experience, actually.

Am I the only one who thinks like this? Do you generally come up with one kind of idea before the other? What challenges do you have with creating plots or creating characters? Let me know in the comments.