This is my ninth published book. Arriving at this point has not been easy. To celebrate, I’m guesting on Janet Wrenn’s blog about how long and hard the journey was.
Please drop by at http://www.janetwrenn.com/blog/
Come back to Butternut Creek and visit with Adam, Miss Birdie, Janey and Hector, and all the other nice people there.
Find out if Adam finds a wife and if Miss Birdie approves.
And just have a great time!
Collin Klein is the top player in the running for the Hiesman trophy.
And he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated with an article about the top player on the top team inside. You do know about the SI jinx, right?
If you think he and the team are feeling pressure, it’s not even close to the stress I’m feeling!
After swallowing several snarky answers, I say, “They just come to me.” Sorry if that sounds as if I’m still being snarky but it’s the truth. And usually—nearly always—what comes to me is the character not the plot. After the idea comes to me, often the beginning of the novel with the main characters fairly firmly created and in place, I build a plot for those characters to wander around in.
For me, this is the definition of character driven plotting. It works best for me because I am able to wrap the plot around the character not forced to shove characters into the plot, often against their wills and come up with odd motivations and conflicts which don’t come from the characters but from the writer.
In my opinion, you can tell if the novel is plot driven or character driven if the heroine has to rationalize and explain why she’s doing what she’s doing—often over and over. If her action comes from who she is as a character, we KNOW why she does this because the writer has introduced us to her and her traits. If the action doesn’t fit this, if it is a twist on her character, a line or two will have us accept it. If, however, the author has to have her act this way to promote the plot driven story, there will be several explanation and, to me, this interrupts the plot of the story. On the other hand, if the characters drive the narrative, there may be some holes in the plot but–we believe–the characters are so charming the reader won’t care. At least, that’s our excuse and our hope.
PLOT DRIVEN: Mary is a grade school teacher who discovers a body on her front porch and decides to find the killer. WHY? I read this so often. Most of us call the police and allow them to take over. What motivates her? Curiosity and stupidity seem to be the answers but the author needs this to happen or she has no book. The motivation really belongs to the writer and her dedication to the plot. Over and over, friends tell her this is dangerous but Mary gives many reasons she give for doing this, none of which come from who she is but the plot. Without her investigation, there is no story.
CHARACTER DRIVEN: Mary is a grade school teacher who discovers the body of her best friend on her front porch and decides to look into this because the police have written this off as suicide. She has no plan to find the killer but she knows her friend isn’t suicidal and wants to know what happened. The investigation is more or less forced upon her. What motivates her? Love for her friend, the desire to know the truth, traits we already know because we’ve met Mary and observed her with her friend. We know as a teacher, she’s not a daring type—I say this as a teacher—that she usually plays by the rules and respects authority so she must have a good reason to do this—not just take off on a lark.
What does the writer need to do if he/she wants to build a character drive plot?
1) Get to know the character and let her lead the way.
2) Introduce the character to the reader with some short scenes so the motivation makes sense.
3) Know the characters so deeply that they interact without the intervention or explanation of the writer. This step came as a complete surprise to me in THE WEDDING PLANNERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, the third book in the Butternut Creek series–no cover available yet. I introduce Janey Firestone in the first book, THE WELCOME COMMITTEE OF BUTTERNUT CREEK and Hannah Jordan in the third book. Somehow, Janey becomes the catalyst for the changes that takes place in Hannah. I hadn’t planned that.
If your characters don’t surprise you with their actions, then you haven’t written a character driven plot. If your characters don’t take over the story and lead in another direction than you had chosen, you aren’t listening to them.
In a character driven plotting, the characters really do take over. Let them!
As you enter our apartment, the kitchen and the laundry room are on the left. Pass the dining room, turn left at George’s study, go down the halls fifteen feet and enter my study. That’s where I was sitting, writing a blog post, when Scooter dashed in. “There’s something wrong here,” he yowled. Well, actually, he didn’t say a word, he just looked upset and worried. One at a time, he lifted each foot high and shook it. Concerned, I got up and looked into the hall. It was flooded. Toilet, I thought, and dashed into the bathroom. Flooded as well but the toilet was fine. I ran on down the hall, turned, splashed through the rising water, across the dining room, waded through the kitchen and opened the door into the laundry room. The washing machine spouted water like a geyser.
I hit spin to empty the machine and took off to survey the damage. Unimaginable! I started tossing rugs and towels and blankets on the floor. When the thick king-sized blanket hit the water, it landed with resounding splashes and sank below an inch of water. Oh-oh. I threw every blanket, every towel, and every bath mat into the pool, as well as the cat beds, a couple of pot holders and–I hate to admit–the other cat. At that point, I realized I’d never be able to soak the flood up. George called the apartment office and asked for a maintenance man to come by–right now!–with a wet-dry vac. John arrived, looked at the pond, and left He returned minutes later with Jason the carpet guy who’d been working in another apartment. The carpet guy worked for two hours with all his equipment until the water was slurped up from the wood floors and the carpets were drying while three huge fans dried on the carpets and terrified the cats.
I hate to think what would have happened if Scooter hadn’t come in to tell me that there was something terribly wrong. We might have all drowned.
Thank you, Scooter the wonder cat!
Way back when I first voted, a voter had to be twenty-one. This meant reaching that milestone truly was an entry to adulthood. However, even at twenty-one and in graduate school, my parents’ party choice and my brother’s political beliefs guided me. I voted for a man who lost hugely.
But my political stance changed as I worked and joined the world. George’s family was in the “other” party. My parents never forgive George (actually, they didn’t hold this against him–much) for converting me. He didn’t. I came to the decision to change parties on my own but I’m certain that marriage and life together are easier if political beliefs line up. We are both somewhat stubborn and vocal. I’d hate to live with us around election time if we didn’t agree.
As we considered the candidates in the first election after we were married, we didn’t know who to vote for in the US House race. We didn’t like either man so voted for the candidate we didn’t know both in protest and because we couldn’t vote for the chairman of the House Un-American Activities sub-committee or his opponent. When the results were posted, we discovered to our HORROR that we’d voted for a member of George Wallace’s racist party. Mortifying. Last time we went into an election that ignorant!
I believe the right to vote and protecting that are incredibly important. A democracy encourages voting by all its citizens. I also believe strongly in supporting and working for the candidate of my choice. I’ve worked phone banks dozens of times, walked the neighborhood, organized districts. I consider myself a political junkie. George considers me slightly wacko but even when I disagree with the winning candidate, I find the process fascinating.
Do you have an memories–good or bad–about elections and voting? Please share. I’d love to know.