Character Driven vs. Plot Driven Writing: The Struggle

Oh look, it’s Nick Miller struggling to write his zombie novel. Is he struggling with plot? Is he struggling with character development? Is his story character driven or plot driven? Who knows? He certainly doesn’t, but it might help him if he did. Come to think of it, you might benefit from an explanation, too (I mean, probably. I don’t know your life). So let’s get into it, shall we?

The terms “character driven” and “plot driven” are tossed around rather loosely, and their meanings are often misconceived. It’s important to be well-acquainted with terminology before delving into subject matter, so before we do anything else, let’s start with some definitions.

Character Driven stories emphasize characterization, relationships, and internal conflict. Contrary to popular belief, they do not lack plot. Only underdeveloped stories lack plot. That a story is “character driven” simply means that instead of being forwarded by external events (e.g. Tina throwing a shoe in first period) it’s forwarded by internal events (e.g. the stream of consciousness Tina’s shoe throwing interrupted). In a character driven story, the goal is internal, like learning how to trust, overcoming a failed relationship, or coming to some sort of truth.

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The Headstone

A little yellow bird perches on a square, grey headstone. It chirps and flaps its wings to circulate the humid air, its scaled little feet clicking on the stone with every hop. The headstone is shiny and new, and for a moment it seems like the bird might scratch it. It doesn’t, of course. But it might’ve been nice if it did. It might’ve been nice for something so pure and bright to leave an impression on something so sad and dark.

How can something so dull and bulky and unfamiliar be so full of nostalgia? One needs only to glance at a headstone with a recognizable name to receive a sudden and inexplicable rush of memories, but it –that thing– was not a part of any of it. That hunk of stone, carved and glossed and made into a solemn memorial – what right does it, a stranger, have, to remind us of what we’ve lost? It has no idea what we’ve lost. It has no right to be so forceful, so imposing, so unmovable. Who would let such an ugly, unfamiliar thing stand immortal in the place of the fallen?

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Accidental Colors

Accidental colors (n.):
Colors which depend upon the condition of our eye,
and not those which are really present, as when one goes
into a dark room after being exposed to sunshine.  The
accidental color of red is bluish-green, of black, white.

Big parties are very much as big houses are: impersonal and unnecessary. Unfortunately for Clarissa Peterson, neither can be avoided tonight, for that is where she finds herself—at a big party in a big house.

As a nine-year-old, she’s not even supposed to be here, at this big party in this big house. This is a grown-up party, filled with people twice her size who seem to degrade more and more as the night goes on. But Mother needed a pianist, and it doesn’t do to disappoint Mother. So, here she is.

Whenever she plays, she imagines herself sitting next to her father, as she used to do when she was a very little girl. He would sit at her left, and she at his right, and they would compliment each other quite nicely. Her simple high notes would ring out strong and loud against his complicated series of bass notes, and he would sing and laugh and let Clarissa be as silly and experimental with the keys as she wanted. Clarissa thinks back on those times quite often, prefers to think on those times rather than linger on her most recent memory with her father, which she is now sure will be her last of him.

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Whale Hello There: An Introduction

Hey there! I’m Trisha, aka The Misfit Author. This is an introduction post. And look, there is also a whale here. He looks like he’s enjoying himself, doesn’t he? I’m happy for him. I’m naming him Jeremy. Live long and prosper, Jeremy. Anyway–

About the blog:
Here on The Misfit Author I’ll post writing advice (from prose analyses to discussions of story craft), answer writing-related questions, upload some of my own work, and I’ll even critique something of yours! All you have to do is submit some of your writing to me via email, and I’ll publish it here (anonymously, if that’s what you want) with some constructive feedback.

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