Plot Must Be Character Driven

Plot Must Be Character Driven

[W]hen I first started writing fiction in my late teens it didn’t occur to me that there was no plot in them and people just wandered around. I literally had these little “plot” cards for when I got tired of the people just sitting around and talking, and they were stuff like, “The cart falls off a cliff,” and “someone dies.” Sure, those are things that happen, but they are not character-driven plot.

Kameron Hurley, on her own writing evolution


Because What Happens When You Get To Page Two?

The cold tip of Sam’s snub-nosed revolver digs into Madeleine’s back as he muscles her onto the ledge. She watches her cherry-red pump, dangling tenuously from one foot, finally slip and fall to the pavement below. “One more sound from you,” Sam says, “and you’ll end up like that pretty high heel of yours.”

It’s tempting for a short story writer to open the story right in the heart of the action. Crash, bang, guns blazing, lovers screaming. It’s an easy way to hook readers, right? Place them right in the action, and they’ll be forced to keep turning the pages to see what happens next.

So page one has fire. Page one has promise. But what happens when you get to page two?

This is the short story writer’s dilemma, says two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee David Lavender in the August 1942 issue of The Writer. So your main character is in peril. So what? asks the reader.

“The finest fight, the dearest love in all the world means little to the reader” until he or she knows the characters and the motives behind their antics.

David Lavender: The Short Story Writer’s Dilemma


Plot Has Nothing To Do With Your Main Character’s Ability To Plot

Plot is essentially the choreography of attack and counter-attack between hero and all opponents. […] One of the poorly understood connections between character and plot is that much of plot is determined by the hero’s ability to plot. […] Plot comes not just from the hero’s ability to plot, but from the opponents’ as well.

John Truby