Character driven vs plot driven
I've been talking with a friend as she begins the difficult process of revising her first novel. I'm a character driven writer. So is she. She is struggling with getting enough action into the chapters to keep the reader turning pages. I've been working only in picture books for so long, except for the verse novel, that I had forgotten (almost) how hard novels were in that regard.
I always start with a character. That's why I want to write the story, to find out what happens to that person. I usually have an opening sentence, often dialog, that begins my journey. I ALWAYS have a title. I simply can't even think to write, not even an article, without a title. And then I start to following the character around and see what he does. Except in my stories my characters think more than they do (a lot like me) so I have to force myself to confront that four letter word, PLOT. Egads, the word itself is enough to give character driven authors a huge case of writer's block.
I'm going to be thinking about all of this a lot in the future as I am pretty sure my next project will be the YA is that is done, but not done. Meaning I have a complete book (and have had about 15 versions of it over as many years) but I am now ready to actually revise it into a living, breathing book that I am can send to my agent. And the idea excites me as much as it scares me.
So what I've decided is that I am not going to think about the "P" word at all. I love my character and I want to give him the best possible book in which to share his story. Instead I am going to concentrate on scenes and conflict. I am going to deconstruct the current version, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, so I can see the first layer of holes. I know this story, VZ, has a braid of 1 internal conflict and 2 external conflicts. They have to balance throughout the story or the braid won't hold. I'm pretty sure that when I start to color code the story I will find that I am heavy on internal conflict, okay on one external conflict, and way light on the other external conflict.
What am I going to do then? I will start with index cards, all one color, and put a sentence about every single scene in the book on its own card. I'll put a code in the upper corner or maybe a small colored sticker that says either IC, EC1, EC2 for internal and external conflicts.
Then I will take a new color of cards and start jotting down as many possible scene ideas as I can that will show one of those pieces of conflict (one scene per card). I'm not going to judge the validity of the scenes at that time, but just generate the ideas. I'll label them as well regarding conflicts. I'll probably lay the whole book out on the floor so I can try to feed in the ideas for new scenes throughout the book and look for more holes that need feeding.
And then I'll write. A lot. Wish me luck.
Write on, right now.