Friday, October 16, 2009

A character-based plot

Wow, it's been a while since I posted. I've been revising and writing and doing other creative ventures, but now I'm back.

I spent a long time on a writing plateau where apparently I could string sentences together, yet I could sense there was an important line I hadn't yet crossed. I'm pretty sure I know what that was now, so I'm writing it down in case anyone else out there is feeling the same frustration.

Plot = character.

It's something I see in other people's intermediate writing a LOT as I critique from a variety of pools, and I'm pretty sure this is one of those things that divides intermediate writers from more advanced ones.

A story isn't a collection of stuff that happens to a character, with the character fending off obstacles and trying to get through the stuff the author has set in front of him/her. Instead, it's a series of consequences that arise out of a character's choices, choices that person makes based on their hopes and fears and desires and weaknesses. That's the way the solutions to the book come about, too.

What does the MC want, what is s/he afraid of, what pressure drives him/her to act anyhow, and what does s/he do? And what is the result? Preferably, this result will escalate the story to more complications.

I know, every writing book tells you this. It's not like I'd never heard it before, and not that I didn't believe it. But climbing around inside and learning to set off little fires under my characters' feet and make them live the consequences, watching them for how they would try to deal with them, is something I had to learn to do. I'm not saying I am very good at it. But finally I'm feeling my mind open up and really get it.