On Writing, Ramblings

Character, Plot, and Story

I’d like to go into a brief exploration into the relationship between character and plot, and how they relate to the overall effectiveness of a story.

To start things off, let’s first narrow down what we as readers expect from a story. One of the first things that comes to my mind is that I don’t want my time to be wasted. I want the story to be interesting, thought provoking, and entertaining. So what is it that makes a story interesting, thought provoking, and entertaining?

A Story is About Something That Matters

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t amazingly written stories about trivial circumstances. There are. But the reason that those stories succeed is because the author has made the reader believe that whatever happens does in fact matter, regardless of what that should be. And who does it matter to, you ask? Why should you care?

The Character Matters

This is what makes you keep turning the page. You want to find out what happens next because you have been made to care about the main character in some way. Maybe you sympathize with them and relate to their struggle, or maybe they seem malicious and you want them to get what’s coming. Either way, the author has created an imaginary person who manages to get you to feel something for them. That is, some would say, the greatest accomplishment a writer can achieve.

Character and Plot

This is where it can get a bit confusing. In a way, you cannot talk about character without bringing up plot, and vice versa.

Let’s take a look at plot first. Plot is not merely what happens in a story, but why. Meaning, that there is a big difference between simply rendering in chronological order: this happened, then this, then this…, and taking the reader through a journey as to why and how a particular event occurred. Plot involves the specific ordering of how a series of events is revealed so as to wring as much emotion and meaning from it as possible.

Now in order to capture our attention, plot has to follow character. Otherwise, novels would read more like outlines or storyboards. Merely stating what happens isn’t what gives us the satisfaction as readers. Above, I mentioned the why and how that makes plot stand out. Character is where the why and how come from.Who a person is and what happens to them influences what they choose to do. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it rings true in the context of story. The way I see it, character and plot come together to create story.

So What? 

So, why does this all matter and what can you do with it? If you’re looking for an answer as to how to start writing a story, or where it all begins, you’ll have to look someplace else. I don’t really have that answer. It seems that in my own work sometimes an interesting series of events hits me, but I find creating a character to fit into them difficult to do. Other times, the character will come first, but I’ll have trouble finding things for them to do. It’s a godsend when you’re hit with both at the same time.

I think the best advice that I can give is to practice. Write what sounds fun. Write what you’d like to read. And don’t forget to experiment with new ways to approach your writing. You never know when it will lead to something bigger.

On Writing, Ramblings

What Do Your Readers Care About? What do Mine?

A simple question that every blogger should ask him or herself, and one that is forgotten about far too often.

There are a number of bloggers out there completely entranced by each of their inch-worm successes. These are the type obsessed with page views and number of likes per post. And I get it. The quantitative measure of progress can be motivational. But its important to not let ourselves get caught up in all that.

I’ll admit that I’ve been there as well, and I think that everyone is when they first start a blog. But one thing that we must all remember is this:

The readers.

That’s why we do this in the first place isn’t it? To connect with others and share what we are passionate about. That’s the whole point of blogging. Not a desperate grasp at financial independence or a reclaiming of a popularity status you never achieved in high school. These perks can be nice, and I am by no means damning anyone seeking these things.

But blogging should be about the reader.

So, what do your readers care about? You determine your reading group by having them in mind every time you write a new post. What do you want your readers to care about?

As for myself, I’d like my readers to care about my fiction. I want them to enjoy reading my stories and get them in engaging discussions if I can.

In an effort to do this, I invite everyone reading this (if you’ve read this far) to take a look at my site and stories. What would you like to see more or less of? Is there a direction I could take that you would be particularly interested in?

Things I’m considering: book reviews, writing on writing, guest prompts, interactive storytelling, serials, interviews with other writers.

What sounds interesting to you, dear Reader?

I invite all you bloggers to ask yourself this question, if you haven’t already.