Jackie Discovers The Holy Trinity – Character, Conflict and Plot.

Wow, slack blogger Jackie! *slaps hand* It’s been a week – nearly. Groan. In my defence, I should say that I’m not online so much for a reason. Being obsessed by writing hasn’t been good for me so I’m reconnecting with non-writing things, and that means less time at the computer and more time doing other stuff. So apologies if I’ve been slack at visiting blogs. On the upside, I am gaining some much needed perspective (slowly) and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

Anyway, so my new process is actually going quite well. If you can consider spending three weeks on the first chapter ‘well’. My usual modus operandi is to write like the dickens until the whole thing first draft is done, so as you can imagine, 3 weeks on one chapter is torture. On the other hand, it does mean that instead of getting halfway through and figuring out what my characters are like, which means another round of rewriting, I am getting a really good idea of them beforehand. And, what’s more, when I run into a problem, instead of pushing through and writing it out, I am stopping and thinking about it. This is working for me, I gotta say. I have about four stories in the planning stages and all this character groundwork is proving invaluable. Normally I begin with the characters as people without pasts, their pasts only becoming clear to me as I go along, but now they have pasts right at the beginning! I can’t tell you the difference it makes to the story, and to my writing as well. Doh!

Because it is all about the character. At least, the kind of stories I want to write are about the character. I don’t think I truly appreciated before quite how true this is. I saw the conflict, the character and the plot as three separate entities and I treated them as such. But of course they’re not. All three are inextricably linked. And, in my opinion, character comes first. You start with your protagonist. You decide who they are. What type of person. Then you give them some conflict – and the type of conflict that will provide the most friction given the person they are. And after that comes the plot – the story is driven by the choices the character makes and the actions that they take. That’s a character driven story.

Now the above is just my own musings and how it makes sense to me. I don’t know whether it’s right or not and since I have been waaaaay wrong in the past, I could be waaaay wrong now. But I’m putting this into practice with the Chessman. Yes, my lovely chess player who fell by the wayside. I learned quite a bit while writing that particular ms, most of all about moving your characters to suit your plot and not the other way around. It was also the ms that gave me the first intimations of what a dog’s breakfast I’d made of my Hammerpants ms. As you can imagine, I have a love/hate relationship with it because of that. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I re-read it last week and discovered it’s actually not sh*t. The heroine’s conflict needs tweaking but the hero’s is all there. And I’m also at the best bit – the black moment! So I’ve stopped labouring over rewriting the old ms for a while and I’ve gone back to my Chessman to finish it. Not sure what I’ll do with it when I finish it but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. The main thing is though, that it’s character driven.

I think. 🙂

So how about you? Like character driven stories? Or are you a plot person?

13 thoughts on “Jackie Discovers The Holy Trinity – Character, Conflict and Plot.”

  1. Lol! Love the holy trinity. I feel character dictates plot and plot dictates character so it doesn’t necessarily matter which point you start with as long as you choose the correct pairing. (if that makes any sense)

    But there are SO many balls to be juggled during the writing of a book it’s quite exhausting!

    I confess I find the idea of a chessman hero incredibly sexy. Good luck and happy writing!

  2. Aimee – I know that if I start thinking plot first, character suffers. So for me, at this stage of the process, I have to start with the character, see how their conflict changes them, and then see how that dictates my plot. If I start thinking of plot first, my characters become pawns and I start trying to make them do stuff they wouldn’t do, for the sake of the plot. I do see what you’re saying though.
    Yeah, I like my chessman. He’s cool.

    Sally – Yeah, I hope so. 🙂

  3. I hope you’re enjoying “doing other stuff” too. Sometimes a break is just what the doctor ordered.

    Your new writing process is sounding great. You may find that the rest of the book flows more easily once you’ve got those first chapters in place. At least, that’s what I hope for =)

  4. I agree with Aimee! May be revealing too much about myself in saying this but I like the idea of a chess hero MUCH better than a sporting hero 🙂

  5. I have always started with characters and then seen where it goes. It’s just the most interesting part of a book.

    But I think I agree with Aimee that it really is two sides of the same coin. If you do it right, the characters are the sort of people who couldn’t do anything else, but what they do.

  6. Lacey – that’s the general idea. I’m sick of rewriting a book 50 million times because I didn’t think about it properly the first time round. Will keep you posted anyway. 🙂

    Rach – ha! Yes, learning a lot with this stuff. You think re the chess hero? Yeah, I like him. He’s very uptight though. Hehe.

    Caroline – thanks!

    Julia – I’m coming to the character party late. Always been more interested in the conflict part of it. But that’s what happens when you write for 20 years for no one but yourself. Maybe I’ll get to being able to have my plot dictate character some day but it’s funny, the instant I decide how the plot is going to go, I start moving my characters rather than letting them do the moving. So annoying!

  7. Wow Jackie, sounds like you are doing really well.
    I like that you are taking it slow and working things out. Good on you!
    Chessman sounds fab – any other hints?? ;P

  8. Kerrin – yes, going slow is a bit of a change for me. I’m usually impatient as all get out! But seems to be working…hehe…
    Chessman? Hints? Um…well, my heroine is a comic book artist. He’s all about logic and she’s all about emotion. Classic opposites attract. He’s trying to win the world title and she’s getting in his way. 🙂

  9. I am a character over plot kind of girl – all the bells and whistles in the world can’t make a flat, 2d character come to life can they?
    Did you watch Lost?
    I loved it, even though the plot was crazy and some people felt shortchanged by the end. Not me though. You know why? Because I adored the richness of the characters they built up over the seasons. For me the series wasn’t about weird statues and polar bears in the jungle, it was about the way they made me really understand and care for those characters. Jack & Sawyer remain my two blueprints for romance hero’s – the extremely hot good guy and the even hotter bad boy. Man…he was hot. H.O.T.
    I digress, but my point is that they created people who I will remember long after i’ve forgotten the ridiculous plot.

  10. Joanne – I’m with you there m’dear! I was a fan of Lost – though give me Sawyer any day of the week. Jack was waaaay too uptight. Hehe. But Sawyer was complicated and…yum…

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