It took me a long time to understand why I didn’t like some books that other people raved about. The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, for instance. (Dale may be writing another blasphemer post after reading this.) I see its strength. I understand it is impressive in its scope of imagining. But I didn’t like it and didn’t read the third novel in the series. Let me explain this is unusual for me as the only series I haven’t finished—but which was complete by the author at the time I read it—was one my husband demanded I stop. He hated hearing about why it was such a bad story. The Foundation series, though, I just didn’t care to finish.
We all know stories need both character and plot. I bet we’ve all read the extremes: stories which revolve around character and contain a slight blip for a plot arc, and stories which revolve around plot and contain characters that are more sketched than fleshed out. I wonder, though, if many of us have taken a look at how character and plot really impact our reading preferences. Not to mention how our reading preferences and choices impact our writing preferences and choices.
I certainly never did until recently. It’s embarrassing, actually, how long it took for me to realize what hooked me into a book– good, bad, or mediocre. It’s the character-centeredness of the book. The Foundation series is event-driven. Don’t get me wrong– I LOVE action in a book. I read the Games of Thrones series, what was available of it, years before it became an international phenomenon. I loved the Da Vinci Code, although I probably would have been more into it if I had read it before the rest of the world announced What A Great Book it was. It was also very event-driven, but still character-centered.
Characters drive all my stories, now that I think about it, except one. Well, they drive that exception as well, but the story revolves around an event not the characters. That’s the story that I never could get to flow. It’s choppy and confusing in places, and that’s after two workshops and three rewrites, one of which gave it a single character for readers to follow.
I didn’t consciously write an event-centered story; it makes me wonder what would happen if I did. Would it be any good? Would I spend as much time staring at the computer screen and cussing out the events that won’t resolve that I spend cussing out the characters who won’t make up their minds?
I want to be the strongest writer I can be. Of course, I defeat myself in the sheer lack of time I give to my so-called craft. My goal this summer (when my summer actually starts, in July) is to write a short story different from what I have done in the past. I think writing an event-driven story would be an interesting challenge for me.
I know the writing stance of a few – very few, sadly – Today’s Author contributors, but little more. Which are you: an event or character reader? An event or character writer? Or both? What do you like about it?