1. Timewalker
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    Timewalker Member

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    Plot vs Character vs Setting

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Timewalker, Nov 19, 2012.

    Recently I read a post where the creator figured out that a better setting is what they like best.

    So I just thought and came up with this concept: Some people make their plots/characters/settings better than the other two.

    So which are you good at?

    Setting: Setting is the item that relaxes us or creeps us. If made carefully, it can be the proper device to console us or release tension. I think setting writers are mostly visual intelligences, but can also be others. J R R Tolkien possibly was a setting writer.

    Plot: Plot is what grips us and we first ask about. If crafted well, we may appreciate the oh-so-original plot, but if not, we can just throw the book away, regardless of setting or character. Most plot writers are USUALLY mathematical or verbal intelligence. Almost all would agree that Agatha Christie was a plot writer.

    Character: Character is the word which makes us hate them or be with them. Characters done well will allow us to mourn for them or enjoy for them. Possibly interpersonals are better character writers. I guess Isaac Asimov was a character writer.

    Now I know somebody would come here and start lecturing about how there is no 'plot writer' and a good writer must be all of them. But a story that completely balances all three is impossible, and it will lean to one, even for a tiny bit.

    I think I'm more of a plot writer, because I write sci-fi and no clue mysteries-the type of mysteries where you need nothing but your brain to solve.

    Your thoughts please?

    PS Am I allowed to add a poll in this?
     
  2. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    I think a combination of all three is the best thing you can do.
     
  3. lixAxil
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    lixAxil Self-Proclaimed Senator of the RPG subforum. Contributor

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    Three must be well done. But Plot governs them all.
    you can have an awesome setting with awesome characters and a shitty plot, and it will suck

    Of course I'm not saying that as long as you have a decent plot you can throw away the other two. Those are important too of course.
     
  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    No clue mysteries? You realise details are clues, unless you answer it out of the blue with no connection to the previous plot, or you can figure it out completely independant of any text within the book, however subtle. But I digress...

    I disagree.
     
  5. lixAxil
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    lixAxil Self-Proclaimed Senator of the RPG subforum. Contributor

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    Oh right regarding that point.
    Even narration counts as a clue in mystery.
    The very acts or thoughts of characters.
    So there are always clues in mystery.
     
  6. Timewalker
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    Timewalker Member

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    @selbinn: I didn't mean it like that. There must be a name for that type. I meant the types Hercule Poirot's ‘little grey cells’ solve. No need for searching or anything like that. Just catch the culprit by some wrong sentence made, or something that doesn't feel right in the context.
     
  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Right. I think I understand. No direct CSI type evidence, as such; but instinct and deduction.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    A flimsy plot with characters that enthrall can be very successful. That's why there are character-driven books - the plot is secondary.
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Right. There are plenty of books with not a lot of plot. I just read a book called The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I thought was okay, but was very well received and has been selling well for several years. It's almost all character. When I tried to describe the 'plot' to someone, it really came across as pretty weak. But obviously that description does not fit that book at all. I read it for my book club and everyone else liked it very much, some absolutely loving it and claiming that they'll be reading it at least once more.
     
  10. lixAxil
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    lixAxil Self-Proclaimed Senator of the RPG subforum. Contributor

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    I cannot really enjoy a work like that.
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why the bookstore has so many different sections.
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But that's personal preference. For you, plot governs all. For me, characterization is more important.
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Personally, I thought it was a per-work sort of thing. When I read horror - plots can have holes, characters
    can be obnoxious or mundane but if the setting is scary - then I'll keep reading. Or if I'm reading a
    romance setting is background and the plot, can pretty paint-by-numbers- so it's the characters that
    keep me interested. And then mysteries - for me I read those for the plot - mainly because
    characters and setting are definitely familiar. I don't think this is just a genre thing though
    - uncategorizable literature can have the same issues - Plot's can be flimsy, characters can be
    mediocre, - theme can be the drive behind it all. Perfectly balance books are pretty rare -
    good plot, good characters, good setting - that's probably why they give out awards.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, it's all about characters. I admit that I do have trouble with a setting that's wrong to the point that events simply couldn't happen that way, but that's just a limit on how bad the setting can be, not a requirement that it has to be good. Plot? As long as the plot pushes the characters to reveal their personality and to interact in interesting ways, I don't much care about the plot itself. For several of my favorite murder mysteries, I couldn't even tell you how the plot was resolved.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Most of the novels/stories I read are character driven, so characters are the most important thing in my writing. For me, plot and setting aren't really that important.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's character for me, too. I can't count the number of movies I know I've seen, but I can't remember, because they're all plot. "Oh, this is the one where he ... uh ... I don't remember." "Does he die in the end?" "Who cares?" "Oh, right ..."

    If the characters don't grab me, I'm not interested. Plot is overrated.
     
  17. Timewalker
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    Timewalker Member

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    Hmm... I expected most to like plot!
    So, Asune, you're a plot writer/liker too. Good to see one. Perhaps I like plots because of an addiction to Agatha Christie.
     
  18. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Characters are what really drive anything from movie, novels or stage plays. The greatest plot and scene creation means nothing to people if they cannot connect to the characters. Never underestimate the emotional attachment aspect.

    As for which of the three is better. That's why there are hundreds of writers and millions of different readers. However, the best described and plotted story will fall flat if your characters are cardboard.
     
  19. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I like style...
     
  20. Prism
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    Prism Banned

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    Without a doubt, my weakest point is set design. I may well have an idea of what sort of setting I'm going for, and no one has ever actually told me that they couldn't figure out where the story took place or that my inability to setting (yes, I'm using it as a verb) was jarringly obvious... but fleshing it out and describing it, or in the case of fantasy stories designing such details as flora and fauna and...ugh. I'm horrible at it. I need to read up on that. Generally, I just avoid it by giving just enough information and focusing more on the characters or plot.

    Speaking of characters and plot, that I'm a little less sure of. I always put a lot of thought into my characters beforehand, give them elaborate back-stories and quirks here and there, know every detail of what they look like. With plots -- at least where my games are concerned -- I go out of my way to come up with ideas that haven't been done before, so I always put a ton of thought into that as well. I'd actually say my stories are generally equally plot and character driven, though there are exceptions.

    As for what I find to be most important, I'd say for me characters, then plot, then setting. I probably would have placed plot first had you asked me a few months ago, but I've come to the realization that I cannot get into stories that focus on characters I don't care about, even if I otherwise like the plot.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Plot AND character AND setting.

    What's the most important part of minestrone? The vegetables, the stock, or the seasonings?
     
  22. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    A tripod only suffers so much imbalance.
     

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