Self-reflection: Character Vs. Plot

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?

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