Plot first, character second, or character first, plot second?
That is the question many of us struggle with.
General rule of thumb: Characters who drive the plot make up literary fiction; a fully developed plot where the characters come across as ‘flat’ or ‘1-dimensional,’ kind of like actors in a play, make up commercial fiction.
Perhaps that is an oversimplification. But generally speaking, it’s pretty easy to discern when a novel has its foundation in ‘character’ or ‘plot.’
To refer again the marvelous Margaret Grossman, one is either a plot writer or a character writer, and each envies the other their talent.
As a plot writer, I’ve had to research and devise tools to give birth to more intriguing characters – or at least, I think they’re intriguing. But I haven’t a clue how to show those writers who struggle with plot how to develop one.
Remember the post, Engaging Characters or Juicy Plot?
In it, I gave a character checklist for those who write plots but don’t write characters naturally. If you’ve never seen that post, here’s the link.
This is a similar tool I use when I’m struggling with fleshing out characters and why they do the things they do. Since I write plot naturally, I have to work on developing characters. Yet it’s very difficult to give pointers on something that comes naturally, at least it is for me.
Anyhow, on Pinterest, I came across a writer, Penelope Redmont, who offered a very simple and elegant method for developing plot, clearly for those who naturally write character. Here’s that wonderful blog here.
Also, while I’m at it, here is my Cage-Escape-Quest-Dragons-Home, the basic structure for forming chapters and the arc of the novel as a whole. This may help with the character arcs Penelope Redmont refers to in her blog, Plotting Fiction: 3 Plotting Tips to Make Fiction Easy.
And guess what else? Penelope Redmont writes Romance! Regency romance and romantic suspense – ha! Oh, what an odd coincidence that is! For anybody who doesn’t understand why that’s strange and would like to know, check it out here.