Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Plot Versus Character



Somewhere in my travels through the bloggy universe, I read a five star review of a book titled Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke. Since I love books on craft and can’t resist anything with great fiction in the title, I picked up a copy. Of course it ended up on a books to be read shelf, but, since I wasn’t absorbing its information by simply sharing office space with it, I recently read the thing--and I loved it.

Mr. Gerke maintains that there are two types of novelists. Those for whom plot comes naturally and those for whom characters come naturally. Frankly, I don’t think I fit into either category, but whatever. The point is this: the plotter must find “the plot of the main character’s change,” while the character-inspired novelist must build plot by “finding the story within the main character.” Either way, the main character’s layers and inner journey is the spine of the novel.

The book is divided into sections: “Memorable Characters” followed by “Marvelous Plots,” and a final section that discusses the union of plot and characters. Within these sections there are diagrams, examples, suggestions, tricks, and tips. For example, Mr. Gerke recommends that writers read a book on psychology and temperament titled Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. I am halfway through this fascinating book on personality types and I’ve just about worn out my highlighter. There’s no doubt that the information in this book will help me to develop deep, layered characters with substance.

So, if you’re up for an interesting read on developing multi-layered characters with riveting inner journeys capable of fueling a three act story structure, grab a copy of Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction. It’s worth the read.

Or have you read it? If so, what did you think about it? Have you read Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey?

Have you read any other good books on craft lately?

55 comments:

  1. No I haven't read it. Sould like a worthwhile book to add to my TBR pile.
    Xx

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  2. What a great way to develop characters! I've not read either books but I am now most intrigued! Thanks for the intro to these books! Take care
    x

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  3. I have not read either of these but I'll have to keep an eye out for them. 'Two types of novelists' - I'm not sure where I fit on the spectrum Gerke lists. The novel I'm querying is much more character-based than the one I'm writing.

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    1. I'm not sure where I fit , either, JeffO, but I'm not sure it really matters.

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  4. I haven't read either of them but thank you for the suggestions. At the conference I recently went to there was a lot of talk about how character based books are what really creates loyal readers and sells books. But without a strong plot, the character isn't enough. I need help in both areas so I think I'm going to have to add this to my must-buy list!

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    1. I know what you mean, Leslie. I think Plot Versus Character will be helpful. Happy reading!

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  5. I'm more of a plot based writer and so maybe I should pick up his book and work on the character portion. The Please Understand Me book looks good too.

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    1. They are both wonderful, Clarissa. Please Understand Me is fascinating, but more of a study in personality and temperament.

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  6. Hi, Cynthia,
    Sounds like you've come across two precious gems. Gonna check out both.

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    1. Well, I think they're precious. : ) Thanks, J.L.!

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  7. Cynthia, Thanks for another great book recommendation. This one sounds like a more in depth look into plot and character development than anything I've read before - I'll definitely put this one on my to be read list!

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    1. You are most welcome, Victoria. Let me know what you think, once you read it.

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  8. sounds like a very helpful book!

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  9. I just made myself a note to look up both these books. Thanks!

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  10. I love writing book recommendations. I'll definitely check these out!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  11. I'm the character writer. They come to me instantly. Whole. I have trouble plotting! The book sounds awesome and I will definitely put it on my TBR list! Thanks for the recommendation!

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  12. I've not read either, but they both sound interesting. Great post! :)

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  13. Thanks for the recommendations. I haven't read either of these.

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  14. I haven't read either of those books either. Hmm, writers for whom plot comes naturally versus writers for whom character comes naturally. I'm not sure which one I am either! I think that question might be better answered by our critique partners? ;o)

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    1. Ha! That's a great idea, Carol. In lots of ways our critique partners know us best.

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  15. Oooh! I don't have this one, but it's going on my (insanely long) TBR list!! Sounds awesome.

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  16. I've not read those books, but I'm always on the lookout for great books on the craft. I'll have to check them out.

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    1. I'm the same way, Lynda--always on alert for great books on craft.

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  17. And just when I swore I wouldn't buy another craft book....

    MUST ORDER!!!!! I think borrowed Please Understand Me from the library. But I have a feeling I didn't read it. I must correct this. :)

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    1. I actually owned Please Understand Me for a long while, but hadn't read it--not until it was recommended by Plot Versus Character! Funny how things sometimes work out.

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  18. This sounds really good. I'm like you--neither plotting or characterization are super easy for me.

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    1. I'm not sure if this is a curse or a blessing, Lydia. : )

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  19. I don't have this one. I'll add it to that ever-so-long TBR. I just won Plot and Structure from Catherine Stine, and I'm anxious to see what JS Bell has to offer. I really appreciated Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. It's worth buying a copy.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation! And I think you'll love Plot and Structure.

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  20. I have not read it, but have heard wonderful things about this book! It's about time I do read it! :)

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  21. Cynthia - Thank you for the suggestion. I wanted to tell you, that when I visit your blog I always go through your web page. I absolutely love that swing on the porch!!! Hope you have a nice weekend, Maeve

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  22. Thanks, Maeve! I WISH I could say that the porch and swing is a part of my home. Wouldn't that be a great place to read and write?

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  23. Oh, my, I adore, adore, adore Please Understand Me II. I use it as my main guide to building characters, and have for years. I think Keirsey has taken Myers-Briggs in a direction that really makes it useful.

    So on that basis alone I'll have to get Gerke's book. I'm in a craft-book-reading stage right now, so this is perfect timing. Thank you.

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  24. Oh my! My TBR list gets longer every time I visit your blog, Cynthia ;) You've made these books sounds irresistible. Thanks for recommending them.

    Characters come naturally for me. I have a terrible time building plots for them, though.

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    1. Interesting that characters come easily to you, Ruth. I envy you. ; )

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  25. Hmmm . . . I'm going to have to think about this. I'm not sure I fit nearly into either category either.

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    1. And I'm hoping that's okay since I don't either, Donna. : )

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  26. I don't fit into either category. I just write, revise, and repeat as often as necessary. Thanks for the book recommendations. I haven't read either.

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  27. This is interesting. I'm not sure what category I fit in, but my CP's have told me that voice and character capture them first when they read my manuscripts.

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  28. Ah, well that is good news indeed from your wise and wonderful CPs, Medeia.

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  29. I always love hearing about a great craft book. This one sounds super. I'm definitely a character girl.

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    1. Ah, then I think you'd really like Plot Versus Character, Leslie.

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  30. Now, its my time at reading craft books and I'm compiling a list. I have three or four on my shelf, but always on the lookout for a good one. Thanks for the information!

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