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  1. Johnattan Goodboy

    Johnattan Goodboy Member

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    Character vs Plot - What matters most?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Johnattan Goodboy, Sep 19, 2016.

    Recently, I saw an interview with Graig McCracken regarding the success of his series "Wander Over Yonder", which he mostly attributed the strength to his characters more so than plots.

    I found this interesting because alot of series, movies or cartoons i fell in love growing up that werent much driven in terms of story but relied on the charisma of its main characters.

    For example, in horror, I've always been a tremendous fan boy for Freddy Krueger. To its most terrifying and corny stories...Aslong as this character appeared i was content as could be...

    Same reason i believe most tolerated the on screen version of Stephen King's "IT" was because of the terrific performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise...

    Now of course there are cases where the plot was the strength as opposed to the characters...And if both are equally strong the better...

    But i believe this can be a good discussion as if you were to focus more on character or plot. Which side would you be on??
     
  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes I would :twisted:

    Every time I've asked myself in my writing "Should I do X or Y," the best answer has always turned out to be "Both"
     
  3. Lifeline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Contributor

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    Yeah, I agree that both are important. But there is a quote that about sums it up and which I try to live by in my writing:

    Maya Angelou — 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'
     
  4. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Characters are more important to me, both as a reader and a writer. But like @Simpson17866, I'm always gonna go for both when possible :D I can't see myself as a writer saying "eh, it's okay the plot's a little weak - look at the characters!"
     
  5. HistoricalScience

    HistoricalScience Active Member

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    As others have said, both are important and both should be developed to your best abilities. But if I HAD to choose one over the other it would probably be characters because that is who the reader will relate to and sympathize with. I guess I would rather read a story with strong characters and a weak plot than one with weak characters and a strong plot. Although both are turn offs.
     
  6. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Characters for me. I have no real interest in 'plots' - either as a reader or writer. Even the word itself irritates me.
     
  7. Nicola

    Nicola Member

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    Ideally I would like to deliver both but I find plot to be tricky. Character is probably more important in that-if strong enough-they can shape the plot line and the ending etc.
     
  8. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    I think the idea is to have character and plot so wound up together that you couldn't really have one without the other. I've never think about one or the other while I'm writing. It's more like this is a good story that belongs to this character. Even trying to think of them in terms which is better is the wrong way of looking at it. Character and plot are one.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2016
  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Both are important, but character wins for me every day - both as a reader and writer. Sometimes I plan a plot event and I can't write it, because when I get there I realise the characters I've created would do something else. I always end up changing the plot to fit the characters rather than vice versa.

    I always point to Jane Eyre in these discussions. For at least the first third of the book, hardly anything interesting (plotwise) happens. You could make a good case for starting the book somewhere around Chapter 13 (from memory). Yet I, and many other people, are captivated with the whole opening because the story is being told by Jane.
     
  11. xanadu

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is how I think of it as well. I don't really see a separation between them, at least in my approach, because neither is independent of the other. You can't just switch out the characters and have the plot remain the same, but likewise, these characters wouldn't follow any other plotline. When I create a character, that character comes complete with wants and desires, goals and ambitions, problems to overcome and issues to deal with--I can't create a character in a nebulous cloud of nothing, isolated from those things. And those things directly or indirectly dictate the plot.

    Of course, other writers have different approaches, and depending on what your goals are one side may be favored over the other. Allegory, for example, will focus much more on plot because the characters aren't actually real people but are meant to embody concepts. Likewise, vignettes aren't going to have much of anything going on because they're typically just character studies. But I'd think, for the most part, fiction in general doesn't see much of a separation between character and plot.

    Just my two cents, of course ;)
     
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  12. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    People tend to believe good characters can overcome a terrible plot. However it isn't always agreed that a great plot can overcome terrible characters, because the terrible characters are the very thing moving the plot along.

    We will put up with a bad plot because we love the characters. We rarely endure terrible characters because we are so caught up in the plot. This is due to the relationship between the characters and the plot and how that relationship works.

    The reader experiences the plot through the characters. If the characters are unappealing, underdeveloped, 2 dimensional, this means that the plot is being filtered, diluted through these inferior characters before being received by the reader. However if you have great characters, the plot is enriched through them. So it must follow that characters are more important than plot. Not so.

    If you're not working towards great characters AND great plot then why are you writing at all? If you're the kind of writer who is confident that their characters are so great it doesn't matter what the story is about, at best your readers will tolerate you, not celebrate you. The same goes for thinking that you have such a great story it really doesn't matter that your characters may as well be cardboard cutouts flopping about in your fictional world.

    Characters and plot are equally important. Hoping that one can make up for the other is...well, fair enough, not the end of the world, but it's not really something to aim for is it?
     
  13. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    @hawls for me, it's more that if the character is interesting enough I don't even notice that there isn't much of a plot going on. The reverse isn't true - a plot can never capture my attention and distract me from wooden or 'bad' characters.
     
  14. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    It's the same for most people, when you're the reader. But as the writer, relying on your characters to make up for your lack of plot, or vice versa, is just a poor attitude to have. Not wrong. Just poor.

    Every time I see "This story is character driven so the plot really doesn't matter," or "This series is more about the story and the characters are simply there to serve the plot" I just think, why are you proud of that? Why are you saying that like it's a selling point? Why are you telling your readers/audience to expect that 50% of the product is subpar like they should be grateful you put any effort in at all?

    Surely as writers we have the self respect to want our readers/audience to be impressed with both our characters AND our plot.
     
  15. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Member

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    As mentioned above, good characters can make it worthwhile to read even with a predictable plot but boring or bad characters can make ruin the best plot. So while we should naturally strive to do both good, I think that characters should take priority if there is a need to chose one.
     
  16. 123456789

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have a limited number of words to tell a story. Some fraction of those words will go towards plot and some fraction will go towards character (and of course there will be overlap). This is fine if the scope of your plot and characters does not exceed the acceptable word count to get published. If it does, then you need to make a choice of what to focus on.
     
  17. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hence I try to maximize the overlap.
     
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  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    But presumably the story in which your characters find themselves has to have some direction/arc/storyline / or other synonym for plot , because otherwise it would just be like the "two old farts" sketch from the two ronnies ... that is its difficult for characters to be engaging is they don't have a purpose
     
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  19. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with the "can't be separated" camp. One of the best ways to explore and reveal a character's layers is to make things happen to the character and/or make the character do things. And I think the best plots only happen because of the unique choices/attributes of the characters involved.

    (And I hated Jane Eyre. Boring, boring, boring - nothing happened for the first, like, thirteen chapters!)
     
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  20. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    [​IMG]

    Was this film written by you @OurJud ? :p
     
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  21. vermissage

    vermissage Member

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    Spoilers will ruin a plot: Once you get it, you get it. I'm not sure if that's the case with characters. Having said that, a book's artistic merit, which can't be reduced to any one element, is the only thing that would draw me back to a book for multiple rereads.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
  22. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure it does. I have no idea what it is I'm writing to be perfectly honest.
     
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  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    I thought your guys were on a road trip while running from a criminal - thats a plot (even if you don't like the word)
     
  24. OurJud

    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nah, I hoofed that one.
     
  25. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both are equally important to me. One may be able to make up for some minor deficiencies in the other, but a nonsensical plot won't be saved by great characters, and great plots won't save bad characters.
     

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