Sunday, February 5, 2012
Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke
This last year and a half has been full of new lessons learned. When I began to write this first novel of mine, it did not take me long to realize that I needed some type of reference book to help me out. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Political Science. In case you weren't aware, this degree does not provide you with the things you need to know in order to write an amazing fantasy novel. *grin* An academic paper on socialism versus democracy, not a problem.
So I began to search around. In an old issue of Writer's Digest Magazine donated by one of the generous members of my writing group, I discovered a section called the Writer's Digest Shop. In it was a list of recommended reference books they thought every writer should have for 'Novel Success'. So I went to my local Barnes and Noble and I bought one.
I chose Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke and I have not been disappointed.
In the writing world, one of the biggest debates that exists is the answer to the question, What's more important to a story? Plot or Characters? Your literary writers will argue that character-based novels are absolutely most essential, while your mainstream(commercial) writers will argue more for plot-based novels. Are either wrong?
Mr. Gerke ascertains in his book that the best fiction is rich in both. In fact, in the introduction of the book he says, "For fiction to be strong, it must include both engaging story and intriguing people. You must be utterly convinced of this or there's no point in you reading further."
Since I didn't have an opinion either way, having no idea whatsoever if I was a 'plot' writer or a 'character' writer, I continued on. It was a good decision. I now know what they mean when my friends say, "You write like a guy."
I am a plot-first novelist.
And it's true. When I first got the idea to write, I knew immediately that I wanted to write fantasy. I love to read this genre. Without having any idea where to start, I drew a map. In other words I created my world, decided on the landscape, the different types of peoples, and what their major issues were. I knew why my world was about to implode before I ever knew what characters were going to keep it from happening. Despite this, his book still taught me things about my plot I hadn't considered. For instance, the ticking time bomb. Yeah, I knew my world was going to end if the main character didn't stop it, but I didn't think about how that was going to affect my world throughout the book. What an amazing thing, adding in a time bomb and so easy once the idea was presented. I love developing a plot. For me it is easy.
Developing a well rounded character? Not my thing. But thanks, to Mr. Gurke's onion model for character building as well as workshops to help me better understand how to apply what he says to my work, I now have characters that seem real rather than just cardboard stand alone's with no personality. I learned how to give each character its own basic personality, history, specific mannerisms, and a character arc.
How fortunate that I picked up that back-issue of Writer's Digest Magazine. How fortunate that this book happened to be highlighted. If you are a new writer or even an experienced one, check out Jeff Gerke's Plot versus Character. You won't be sorry.