Character or Plot?
All stories centre around characters not plot. If you find that your idea for a story has germinated and you have written a lot of your first draft but then it looks like things are going awry, it’s time to step back for an objective look at the whole thing.
Naturally, we tend to try and organise what we’ve done in the hope that it will help us see the sense and make sense of our story. The first mistake is that we try and organise chunks of story and therefore begin to focus too much on plot. dealing with the plot as a way of organising a story is a mistake. We can’t know our story by plotting.
Conflict in the Story is an Expression of Character
The most important part of our story stems from character actions and the conflict that those actions cause.
The essential germ of the story is character and his or her desire to get something, and that something is often thwarted by the other characters. Therefore, conflict occurs which leads to events forming into what we call plot.
Trying to organise the plot that isn’t even clear is going to lead to further mess and confusion.
Know your Story through Knowing your Character
We have to get to know our protagonist in order to know our story. The better we understand how the protagonist goes about achieving her aims the better our chances of discovering the course of events. How do you know your character enough to be able to design or discover what should happen in the story?
Writing with a basic idea of who your character is and what colour their hair and eyes are should be a good start. Instinctive thinking will lead to a character becoming more rounded through written events. The idea of reiteration through story writing is a good way of discovering not only who your character is but also what happens in your story. You will know if the actions of your character are right or wrong in the same way that we can tell when an actor is portraying a role “out of character”.
Find your Character’s Desires
The key thought is to constantly ask yourself, as you write, “what has this got to do with my character’s desires?”
If a piece of writing has something good about it but you can’t say why it’s good or how it furthers a story, then it probably has no place or function in the story. Functional writing is what we are looking for in dialogue and narrative.
By focusing on our protagonist we can clearly see what needs to be done to create a story and how a plot could develop. The plot that springs from character actions takes time to become clear and so organising the events of that plot into something more coherent will come later. Focus on character needs and wants and watch your story grow.
The reason we believe that plot will give us the answer to our story telling problems is that we want the story to have meaning through a series of events. Something tells us we should try and make sense of events and shuffle them about so that we can see the story message as a whole. But our events can’t happen by themselves, they need a ‘driver’ which acts as a scaffold to hold these events upright so that the reader can feel that she is being led to a point in the story that will answer a question. That can only happen if the main character is doing something and is involved in meaningful actions.
It is through the character’s actions that a picture develops and that image of a story comes together to give meaning to the series of events. This is where theme and subject come into place.
Every good story has some type of message or moral. We often call it theme. If we try and devise a plot and put a character into that plot hoping that our plot will carry the theme, we will end up in a quagmire of difficulties.
Solve problems of Plot through the Character – not the Plot.
The personality of our character is everything and is the key to solving most problems that occur when writing. It is through character that story is told and that same story expresses the theme through nuances of character actions.