1. KK Twain
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    KK Twain New Member

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    Plot vs. Character

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by KK Twain, May 3, 2011.

    Normally I work out problems on my own, go to my sister (who will be dead to the world until tomorrow, at least) or ask at my old Writers' Guild... which unfortunately died about a year ago. I need outside help at the moment so I trying this place out. Don't let me down!

    (Edit: I do want to say that this isn't the first story I've created or tried to write and I have finished past novels... Having a story in my head for six years is... well, this is the only one. It's really special to me, which is probably why I'm hesitant to make this decision.)

    Warning: I do have a tendency to go on and on and through tangents. Bear with me, please, I will be grateful.

    The problem is this: actually, I'll start with some backstory first. The story... lacks a title. However, it's been in my head for the past 6 years. For some reason I've never actually tried to write it so far. This is probably because the story is so dear to my heart, having been in my head for so long, that I didn't want to attempt writing it when I didn't feel experienced or prepared enough to do so. However, I've just started to feel prepared enough and I actually want to try writing it in the near future.

    As one can imagine, the plot is pretty well understood (having been in my head for years) and the characters are very solid. In fact, one could say they are the driving force of this story.

    Another reason I never tried to write this story is that occasionally I make HUGE changes to it... this is a good thing because I was a young person 6 years ago and I had some terrible ideas back then. Really terrible ideas. I get rid of characters then bring them back, change names (always for the better but still a very painful process...), and more detail (and thus restrictions) to the world...

    Recently (read: last night while I was falling asleep) I had a idea for another HUGE change. This idea would seriously help the annoyingly weak plot. Because the (unchanged) plot is weak and unbalanced. The improvements this change would make are seriously tempting, and while it would wreck another recent addition to the story-flow that I liked, I think these improvements are more worthwhile.

    BUT. This wonderful improvement had one very terrible drawback --it would end up deleting a character.

    There are four core characters to the story that have been a crucial part of the story for the past six years. (There are another two who are recent but are now also crucial, and there's the "fifth" core character who was once the main character, then deleted, and then brought back as a minor character... yeah...) Anyway, the deleted character was one of the four core characters. Her name is Linn (not the greatest name, but far better than her first name).

    These six main characters all have very solid (although dynamic) personalities. Linn is a character I've spent a lot of effort on (say, six year's worth). She has been, for the past six years, the catalyst character who starts the story (with the change the role switches to another core character). Linn is the friendliest (the others often fake their friendliness, hers is always real). This may seem minor, but the other characters aren't friendly enough on their own, she was the one who tied them together as "friends" in the first place. The new catalyst is... not so friendly. Distrustful is a better way to describe her.

    But... as important as she was as the former catalyst and matchmaker of friendships... later on in the story, her role dwindles down to almost nothing. She's still there... but while the other characters interact and cause conflict she doesn't. She's just "friends" with everybody. That was important to the start of the story, but nearing the end it causes her to fade away. So she was sort of a deadweight to begin with.

    Yet at the same time, she still has a powerful personality, one formed from six years of planning. I understand her interactions with other characters. I've never written her backstory in detail, but I know who she was, where she came from, how she was raised, who her childhood friends were... (I can't say that for one of the core characters or one of the newer but still central character...) She's also the emotional, uninformed character who gives me the good reactions and the questions so I can help the reader understand the world.

    I feel like I've come down to Plot vs. Character. Which is more important? There's going to be a huge loss with Linn's erasure... but at the same time the beginning that I've always struggled with will improve immensely. The plot improvements are so tempting... but losing Linn will be painful... The core (and central) characters of this story feel like real people to me, I know them so well... the idea of erasing Linn as a character almost feels like ending a dear friendship... I can barely imagine doing it... but it will improve the plot...

    Ugh. Okay, I've gone on for long enough. I apologize for my excessive use of ellipses, I rather fond of them. A bit better than my semicolon abuse days.
     
  2. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Okay, we need to break this down. First off, get out of the mindset of plot vs character, because both are not only equally important, but feed off each other. For example, my stories usually come from a powerful character outright demanding a plot out of me. They just demanding more and more, never letting me go. Sometimes there are multiple ones, and then that demand becomes a chorus of them never letting me go until they are satisfied.

    See, you aren't the only one that sometimes goes on tangents.:D Anyway, here's the key. You love this character right? Why don't just increase her significance to the plot? Is she deep enough for that? After six years in your head she sounds like she could be. I know if I had a character in my head that long, I could've written a War and Peace length book from their chanting. Sadly, once I write a page they usually stop chanting... but that would just be getting into another tangent. The point is get out of the mindset of plot vs character, decide what's ultimately best for both.

    To help with this, tell me more about her, and also tell me more about the over all plot of this story. I'm sure I can help get you out of this particular binding given time.
     
  3. KK Twain
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    KK Twain New Member

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    Everything sounds so terrible when I try to explain it... well, here goes.

    The setting is a fantasy world will people are rarely born with special "gifts". Some examples are healers (people with a healing touch) and berserkers (natural born killers).

    Linn has a gift (though it's been sealed so she doesn't even know it herself) and the starting villain of the story is after her for that purpose... the second core character who has reasons to protect her shows up then and takes her to chief setting of the story, where the other characters are met.

    The plot continues for awhile like this, but around the middle of the story the starting villain is taken care of and Linn ceases to a be a center point character. In fact, Linn and the first villain are mostly important for getting the story going and introducing the characters...

    It isn't that I can't come up with conflicts for Linn, there are plenty of conflicts for her. But they don't involve the main plot or what the rest of the characters are doing. (One of the reasons I revived the "fifth" character, as I called him, after erasing him, is because I realized he could be useful in involving Linn in the story, since he also works with another core character. But even then their story ends up being a fairly minor subplot.)

    Since she starts out as the "main" character, I feel weird dropping her off in the middle of the story, so in that way erasing her is another improvement...

    With the change to the plot, the story delves into the make conflict much more quickly, especially since it erases the slow introductory story... Even so I can't help but feel Linn's early interactions with the group is important...

    Also I know characters are often the driving force of the plot (this story is entirely character driven) but how they drive the plot is important too, which is sort of what I'm struggling with.

    Talking it out is sort of helping my thought process... maybe I should move Linn to another story? (I did have a character who always bothered me because she reminded me of Linn...)
     
  4. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Okay, lets establish some things.
    A. This story isn't that bad. I mean, I think it could use a little more creativity in areas in regards to the setting perhaps, but I don't know enough about the context to really judge that. If you really feel worried about it, contact me and I'll try to help you work on it. How does that sound?
    B. Okay, what about a third option, weaving in Linn's plot more with the main one. Not forcing it mind you, but sort of gently easing it back into the fold.
    C. It isn't that bad if the main character changes in the middle if there's good reason for it. As you said, she helped introduced everyone, so served a vital purpose. Could someone else have done that? Look, I once read a story with 100 main characters, and most of them getting a POV once, and plenty of them got some serious development, along with characters outside of them. It was in first person by the way. The point is, I see no reason why this can't work as is so far.

    Again, if you want to, I'll help you some more with the plot and stuff. Just tell me.
     
  5. KK Twain
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    KK Twain New Member

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    I'm not worried about the setting at all, it's a fairly developed world (with developed religions, "magics", governments, economies, climates, geographies, ethnic groups, militaries, currencies, international relations, mythologies, with regional differences in clothing, buildings, diet, and dialects...) The whole "gift" thing is a very small part of it that is hardly worth mentioning, except in this one story it happens to be important. (My fantasy world description was merely to make it clear that it wasn't in the real world, not to describe the actual world in any way.)

    I do realize that some people like a billion characters in their stories... I don't. Personal tastes right there, I know. And it's difficult to express how letting Linn fade wouldn't work that well, since she stays there... she just stops being relevant. I dunno.

    Time for bed in my timezone so... I'll sleep on it.
     
  6. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    How about going the other way? Keeping her, but making her less important in the beginning? Have the characters who become mains later be mains in the beginning as well. That way her reason for being in the story is tying all the characters together, and that is definitely a good enough reason for a character to be there. And if she starts losing relevance as the story progresses, either kill her off or leave her someplace. Say she meets her long lost family or something and decide to stay with them since they no longer need her.
     
  7. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    May I humbly proffer the suggestion that you are overanalyzing this - by far - and ought to just start writing?

    I can't keep a story inside for more than a few days before I have to start writing it down. Sure, I've writte a lot of awful stuff, but that didn't matter, I just wrote the same story again much much better years later..
     
  8. Charmichan
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    Charmichan Member

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    I'm not much of an experienced writer myself but on a reader's point of view, I'd say keep the character if she is one of your beloved driving forces. From how you described her, I'd say she's the type where most readers would come to like and most likely to identify with. You could always make her go on a vacation or something then bring her back later if you feel the need for it.
     
  9. Irontrousers
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    Irontrousers Member

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    You've had an idea in your head for six years and haven't even tried to start writing it? Boooo. That's not an idea, it's a parasite. Destroy it now. You'll feel better.
     
  10. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    So the beginning of your book is just a back story for the main story, correct? Very George Lucas or Stephen King of you. Maybe I am confused. If you erase her then who becomes the main character?

    This is not true for me. The story is the biggest driving force behind the plots. I could use "Spaceman Spiff" as my main character and it would still work. It would mess up how you feel about the character and that is what I use to make the characters, how I want the reader to feel about them. (Like them hate them) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin%27s_alter_egos_%28Calvin_and_Hobbes%29

    As for the character plot relation, I think some one said it but if not, they drive each other. If the character has magic and with it power the plot will drive the character to either become corrupted by the power or humbled by the power. As the character grows and learns to incorporate this "gift" into their personality you might think of some plot changes because of what the character is becoming. You may want the character to fall in love have great strife or be mad at the world and strike out.

    Just MHO.
     
  11. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah, I see. Okay, well, yeah, I say keep her. She fulfills a good role in the story, and she'll probably stick with readers, even if she leaves in the middle.
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why do you have to erase her completely? or are you just taking her out of the story a bit into the novel?
    I have had the same experience as you, sort of. I started writing a story 23 years ago and kept writing on it in a never ending flow for at least 10 years. it was just for fun and for getting all these ideas that came popping to my mind on paper. Then i quit, but this summer I took it up again and decided i would try and make a "real" novel out of it instead of just playing around with it, and now Im revising my draft for the fourth time and think a good story can come out of it. I have the same feeling as you about my characters. since I have practically grown up with them I feel I know them better than you usually would know even your best friends, and eliminating one of them from the story would ruin everything for me. Probably I would quit writing it if i had to remove some of the main characters, but I don't see why I would ever have to. Cant you come up with a new idea that makes sure you can keep this character? since you came up with this idea, play with it for a while, see what you can do with it and some better idea might appear out of the blue, before you start writing. But be aware of that the first draff is only a first draft and after such a long time it might be difficult to get it onto paper the way you 'see' it in your head so don't despair. That is where rewriting comes to play an important role. have you made some kind of notes of this story or is it entirely in your mind?
     
  13. nazareth1983
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    nazareth1983 New Member

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    Every story needs a good balance of plot and character. You need the reader to have a good feeling of both. My favorite books are character driven, but at the same time they keep a strong plot so that the reader keeps wanting to turn the page.

    You need to keep them balanced so that the reader gets a good feel of both, and is always wondering what will happen next to the hero.


    ~Naz~

    Affrodable GhostWriting
     
  14. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    Couple of options

    couple ideas;

    give her a minor sub-plot and bring her back in to help resolve the conflict later

    Just let her slip away when she outlives her usefulness and think of giving her a novella!;)

    this is my favorite idea even though I know it sounds bad (hear me out)...kill her off. The death of a beloved character, particularly after a conflict has been resolved, can do all kinds of good things for the other characters and the plot and the reader. Up the stakes, heighten the emotional tension, make her memory be a driving motivation in the actions of others, etc....

    just a couple ideas, use or discard as you like.

    All the best!
     
  15. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Ok, so the main problem here seems to be this villain. His and Linn's stories are one and the same so once he goes she doesn't have much to do right? Well there are several things you can do though I wouldn't advising doing a way with a character you've worked on for six years.

    Simply have her contribute to the main plot once the villain is finished with. A character doesn't have to be the chosen one to do something. Give her a bit of action, and dialog, maybe make her undergo character development so she fits in more with the main plot. Maybe she loses a friend during the fight against her villain and she becomes a more driven involved character.

    Make her plot the main plot. Shrink the others to side plots and make hers the main one. Obviously I wouldn't advise this so much as you may have spent a lot of time making them but it's a possibility.

    Intertwine her plot with the main one. Maybe the villain can turn out to be a mere servant of the big bad? You'll probably need to do some rewriting to make sure this makes sense within the story, else it will come off as being tacked on to the main plot.

    Finally, you could just kill her off once she's fulfilled her role. A hard choice but if you really feel there's no way she can be more involved then it's better than simply having her never exist. And afterall this is a fantasy series. Ghosts, and resurrection are possible. Maybe her power can come into play?
     

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