Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deal breaking

So we’ve been talking about good writing and bad writing and what we liked to read, and it occurred to me that maybe again it comes down to a question of plot and character.

A story is plot and character. Intertwined as they are, I find that I will generally read a story with a less than stellar plot if I think the characters are real and engage me. I don’t really think it works the other way for me.

Of course other elements like theme and tone and dialogue all play their part, but for me they all play into character. I find that’s how I write as well.

So what trips your trigger as a writer or a reader? What’s necessary and what’s a deal breaker when it comes to reading and writing for you?


  1. If the characters engage me, I rarely find a problem with the plot. My thought is that usually plot will flow from character.

    I recently stopped reading a book because the characters were so flat and irritating that I couldn't stand it anymore. I really didn't care WHAT happened after that.

  2. I think that's interesting, and I think that's what my reaction to cutout, cardboard characters is.

    What I thought was also interesting was Davin's post over at the Literary Lab about a good idea being essential to a good story.

    I'm still kicking that around. A good idea is essential to a good story. Beautiful writing won't cover up a lack of it. But I'm thinking that even the best idea can't make up for poorly drawn and/or written characters.

  3. In the beginning there was the character…

    Jokes aside, a good character is vital, as is the connection we can establish with it as readers: the one that makes us *care* about it, feel its pain, joy, whatever; keep thinking about it after we've closed the book.

    To me this lowering of barriers between reality and fiction is important, because the phrase "immersing oneself in a story" takes on a literal meaning.

  4. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

    Seriously, I think it really is all about the connection your words make with the reader, and the honesty and respect you as a writer show for both as well as for yourself and the process.

    I think the best writing makes you feel or see or otherwise experience what the characters undergo. And it does go beyond a willingness to suspend disbelief all the way to immersing yourself in the best writing.

  5. Yes. Suspension of disbelief is a voluntary action, while with a good story you don't notice the transition - you're *there*.

    Good writing does that to you, puts you right inside a character's skin: many of your stories left me with "scars" gained that way, and I wear them proudly, never afraid to come back for more. :)

  6. I love writing that just slides under your skin and makes you feel. That you think I've done that for/to you thrills me beyond words.

    As usual, you are far too kind to me.