Monday, 28 February 2011

February Mini Poll results- Character or Plot?

Thank you all those readers who took a moment to give an opinion. Although this is the result of a small number of answers it is still interesting.

The question was: Should novels be...?

Character led                57%
Plot led                          0%
No preference               42%

All stories have people in them- well there are a few from an animal or ghoul type perspective of course, but usually there is a human being in the story somewhere.

If a writer has done their job properly then the reader will believe that those characters are real- okay you know they're made up, but how many times have you read a story and realised you know someone just like them?

I was fortunate enough to hear crime writer Stephen Booth give a talk last year at Nottingham Writers' Club. During the Q&A at the end of the talk I asked if he was a plot or character led writer?

(Many crime writers do seem to be plot led in my opinion, but I'm open to that view being challenged.)

He explained how his characters led the story, not the plot. His characters did seem to work things out as he wrote...

Of course there has to be a plot to any story, but it doesn't have to be set out from A to Z, letter by letter. If that's the way you write and it works for you, then that's great.

I've always been the type to know where I'm starting- or think I am, then where I see the story as ending and certain points in between the start and finish. Those points may move about a bit, but generally I end up where I expect to, even if I reach that end in a different way than I thought.
It does allow for some surprises along the way...

When I try to plot each stage my writing suffers- I think that is why I've had a number of issues with my Dorset novel. I deviated from my usual style. But I have learnt from it.

Though I do sometimes wonder if it isn't being a writer that makes plots visible. EDITED to add that I was thinking about books made into television dramas when I made this comment. Hope it now makes sense...

So, do you have any opinions on this subject that you'd like to share?


Rosalie Warren said...

I've always been character led up to now, but just recently started writing my first SF novel, which needs a lot of planning, both of the background and the plot. So I'm spending ages working out all the details before I get properly started on the actual writing.

Yet even as I do this, I can feel the characters growing in my head. So maybe it'll still end up being character driven, after all.

Carolb said...

Yes I can see why you need to do a lot of planning when you're writing SF, Rosalie. Once you get that straight then you will have your characters react appropriately for the circumstances.
Good luck with it.

Teresa Ashby said...

Interesting results of your poll, Carol.

I have awarded you a Stylish Blogger Award as I enjoy reading your blog. Details at I hope you will share seven things about yourself on your blog and pass the baton to 15 more bloggers, but no worries if you’d rather not.

Carolb said...

Thank you Teresa,that is a lovely thought. :-)
I will certainly start thinking what I can reveal and who else I'd like to pass the baton too.
I will be over at your blog soon for details.

Patsy said...

I like to write character led stories, but I don't think that means you can't plan in advance. The planning just needs to be flexible, so your characters work themselves out of the situations you throw them in.

Carolb said...

Good point Patsy. Perhaps it becomes easier the more you write and produce, becomes less daunting.