Thursday, July 26, 2007

Characterisation and Plot

Dear Dead Beat,

I read your comments on characterisation with interest.Here's another question - Sometimes, especially toward the middle of a story, I find myself stopping, almost afraid to continue. I wonder why this is.

Typically, my story has started out strongly, I am really into the character, what he/she thinks, loves, likes, does, believes. I usually know how the story is going to end, it's just so hard to find the way to move my characters to that endpoint.

I wonder, is it possible for a writer to care too much about a character or characters,and therefore, allow his/her writing to become paralyzed? Do you have any theories about this? I'm writing short stories, as I have no novel ideas yet, or at least, nothing that could be spun into a novel-length treatment. I love short stories and I would like to succeed at it, but this problem has me stumped...

Gratefully yours,
stuck-in-the-middle(apologies to Stealer's Wheel)

Dear Stuck-in-the Middle,

You should know by now that Dead Beat has a theory about everything.

Is it possible for a writer to care too much about a character or characters? I guess it could be. I often hear this being said - especially in writing workshop situations. However, I sometimes think this is a misinterpretation of what is happening within the writing process. Plot is not as simple as it seems. When it becomes hard to move characters towards the end point it usually means that the plot has not emerged fully - the sequence of events driving the narrative from start to finish has faltered somewhere - i.e. the events are not entirely present, or the wrong events have presented themselves.

It may be that the attraction towards the characters has distracted the writer from the plot aspect of the story - that too much emphasis has been placed on character development. In this case the writer needs to acknowledge that enough work has been done on characterisation for now and that more work needs to be done on developing the narrative - on working out the plot.

Remember good old Chandler - when the plot flags, bring out a man with a gun.

1 comment:

Alex Andronov said...

[I wrote this comment over at MetaxuCafe and thought I should repost it, not sure the correct form]

I wonder if there’s also a chance that you don’t want to finish the story for another reason?

For a long time I found it very difficult to finish any story I was writing. But this was in a large part connected to a fear of having my work judged. I enjoyed writing, but feared what it might mean if I actually published something. Somehow it would make it far too real. So instead I three-quarters finished everything.

In the end I countered this by starting my own blog and giving myself a deadline of a post a day. I convinced myself that by doing that I would feel guilty if I didn’t post something. This involved new fiction at least twice a week. Once I got the fear of publication out of my system my writing (I feel) improved dramatically.

I could be projecting my own problems onto you but while I think Dead Beat has hit the nail right on the head I just remembered my own situation. You have in your mind plotted the end of the stories so you must know what you need your characters to do. Perhaps you are afraid of what might happen when they do get there? If so, you have to convince yourself to “publish and be damned”. You aren’t really a writer if you just stick it in a drawer.

Anyway, just my two cents,


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