Write On Right Now!: Character driven vs plot driven- Writing Prompts & Exercises to Get You Writing Now!

Write On Right Now!

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write. And that would be me. I've moved my journal about my writing life over to LiveJournal http://susanwrites.livejournal.com This blog will be filled with writing prompts and exercises so we can all write on right now! Please feel free to share your favorites.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

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.


At Thursday, June 23, 2005, Blogger Don Tate II said...

YOur first paragraph generated a question. Im working on both a ya memoir and several picturebook manuscripts. Seems, at least I've heard, that once you establish yourself as a picture book artist<----excuse me, I mean writer, convincing editors to then consider you as an YA author can be difficult, and vice versa. How true is that. I'd like to do both.

At Thursday, June 23, 2005, Blogger Susan Taylor Brown said...

I hear a lot of the same things and I guess you can go at it a couple of ways. You can choose to specialize in one area, like Don Brown. I adore all his picture books. I think that's all he does but I bet, considering the success he has had already, that he could certainly go write a novel and have publishers interested.

But if you're like me and you have many passions, you have to follow them all. I still believe (maybe it is Pollyana of me) that if you write the story you are meant to write in the format it is meant to be told in, you will succeed.

I've published in just about every category (if you count foreign countries.) I can't seem to limit myself to just one type of writing. Perhaps it is because I haven't found my niche yet. While I think I write good picture books, I don't think that is my only thing and probably not my best thing. I know my agent wants me to work on just novels for a while in order to brand me, which should help for the future (and the PB market is supposed to be soft right now.)

I guess that's a long way of saying that I believe you can do both, you just have to be willing to do the work. You might have one house that only wants your picture books and another that wants to work on your YA books. I think it all comes down to writing a story that makes it impossible for them to say no.

Write on, right now.

At Friday, June 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I start with character, too. Or more like the character starts with ME. She or he will start talking to me nonstop until I HAVE to write the story down. While I might not have a plot in mind (I rarely know the ending when I start out), I do have a situation. (Kind of like what King talks about in ON WRITING.)

good luck with your project! :) I'm sure it will be fabulous! Happy Writing!

At Monday, June 27, 2005, Blogger Don Tate II said...

Ah! Sorry I missed your answer till just now. Thanks for the insightful response! Think I've decided to primarily write for teens. I would have never guessed that would be my choice a year ago. But I'm having such a ball writing this YA memoir, that I wouldn't want to limit my self to PBs. Not to say anything against PBs, but for whatever reason, I am having a greater connection with this YA thing.


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