Plot versus Character Driven Story

Apropos my recent writing group meeting, I had described my novel in progress as character-driven.

Apropos my recent writing group meeting, I had described my novel in progress as character-driven. But was that accurate? So let’s see. The reason I consider it so is because my approach is take great characters and throw them together and write the story that emerges, rather than begin with a plot and creating characters to suit the needs of the story’s course.

I feel my characters are fully formed and not props to be summoned when needed and discarded soon after. They have their own lives, motivations, personalities. If I’m successful to presenting them to the reader, does that make the novel character-driven? Or is there some other definition? Then what is plot-driven? Is one better than the other?

What do you think? Which do you prefer reading and/or writing?

Writing Show: Scene and Subtext

I attended June’s Writing Show. It centered on writing compelling plays.

Author and actor Irene Ziegler and JRW Administrative Director Anne Westrick.
Author and actor Irene Ziegler and JRW Administrative Director Anne Westrick.

I attended June’s Writing Show. It centered on writing compelling plays. I do not write plays, but I enjoy the shows and meeting new writers and catching up with friends. As it turned out, much of what the panelists discussed could be applied to any form of writing and the panelists were enjoyable to listen to. They were author and actor Irene Ziegler, and playwrights Douglas Jones, Marta Rainer and Bo Wilson.

A memorable moment for me was when Jones, appropos the topic of stage direction, recounted a David Mamet monologue involving two characters. With exacting detail, the speaker described how he wanted his deli sandwich prepared – spread the mustard with a spoon, slice the meat this thick, stack the ingredients in this order. The only stage direction was that the speaker held a gun.

Commercial versus Literary

What is the difference between commercial and literary fiction?

What is the difference between commercial and literary fiction? Is it like pornography — you know it when you see it? Is it the subject matter? Is it the quality of writing? Is it audience? Is it that one is purely entertainment and the other an MFA thesis?

I wonder, tongue-in-cheek, if it comes down to sentence length. It seems commercial fiction sentences are terse. You won’t find a sentence unwind over several pages in commercial as you would in a literary fiction, right? This was brought to mind when reading One Hundred Years of Solitude where just such a thing occured.

What do you think the difference is? Does the difference matter?

Writing Show: From Random Thought to Random House

We know getting your novel published is an arduous journey with the chance of success just shy of nil. But it can happen (perhaps enough to tease).

We know getting your novel published is an arduous journey with the chance of success just shy of nil. But it can happen (perhaps enough to tease). April’s Writing Show, “From Random Thought to Random House,” tells of one who overcame the odds. For Michele Young-Stone, lightning has struck her twice — once as a bolt through her body as a young girl, then as a streak of luck that got her novel to print.

Writing Show Panel

The local author shared her inspiring  story with the audience. Joining her was her agent, Michelle Brower and her editor, Sarah Knight. They chatted with moderator Virginia Pye about Young-Stone’s debut novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

Perseverance does pay. Brower initially turned down the manuscript. Instead of dismissing the rejection, Young-Stone made significant revisions to her work and got another agent to represent her. But this arrangement didn’t work out and Young-Stone resubmitted her work to Brower who agreed to represent her. Then Knight entered the picture, telling the audience that by this point the novel was so well polished there was little for her to do other than convince the publishers to make the right decision.

Brower said that at any given time she has 500 email queries. Discouraging indeed. But what can help get you noticed is a great title, as was Young-Stone’s case, a compelling premise and an engaging voice.