Thursday, January 21, 2010

Query: Character vs. Plot

Yes, I know, I know, I know, I'm supposed to be unplugged. Really, I am unplugged - well, one of my personalities is, but I can't speak for the others!

I've been in the process lately of attempting to work on my query . . . and not go totally insane in the process. Last night I had a breakdown . . . .ooops, meant a breakthrough!! I finally, finally, finally pieced together the opening paragraph of the query. Yeah, only the opening, but it's a start.

Today I've been mulling over the next part of the query and, lo and behold, I come across this post by Lynn Price. Check. It. Out.

According to Lynn (who has a fabulous Beagle that makes margaritas), when writing a query, the writer should consider whether their brilliant piece of fiction is plot or character driven. Who knew? I certainly didn't.

So, first, some definitions, as provided by Ms. Price . . .

Plot Driven is about the movement of events within a story and how the characters influence those invents. Go here to read more.

Character Driven is all about the characters and it is they who are the main dish in your personal banquet . . . their personalities, motives, and desires are the yin and yang to the plot, and their actions are a driving force to influencing the story.

Who knew? I certainly didn't, nor did I know that (at least according to Lynn) the plot can be on the thin side because it's secondary to the character(s).

The things I learn on a daily visit to the blogsphere.

With a character driven story, the query should focus on the characters rather than the plot. This is where voice plays a big role because you need to make them come to life and make us (agents/editors/et al) care about them.

This little tidbit of knowledge has, to me, been a gift of great immensity because Margarita Nights is all about the characters. Yes, there is plot, major plot, but the characters - their thoughts, desires, actions - are what drive the story forward.

So, since my story is character driven, I am going to heed Lynn's advice as I continue working on my query and let potential agents see, feel, empathize, and understand (my) characters! The reason: the aforementioned, according to Lynn, is the difference between "send me pages," and "no thanks".

On that note . . . wait, hold on, you did check the post out, didn't you? C'mon, sources of great knowledge are worth checking out!

Now . . . have a great day!


P.s. - all italicized sections in this post are taken directly and/or paraphrased from this post found on the Behler Blog.


The Rejection Queen said...

I have always said that my novels are totally plot driven.

Ann Elle Altman said...

My novels are plot driven too but with recurring characters...hmm, what would my readers find most important?


Tess said...

I'm not surprised to hear your novel is character driven ... it would need to be from all I've gleened. And, I like taking this perpective into the query. It's good advice.

Scott said...

Queen - thanks for stopping by. I never really gave much thought to plot versus character driven novels when I read. I guess I'm going to have to pay more attention now!

Ann - if writing the query from a plot driven perspective doesn't work, why not try it from a character driven perspective. A comment on the blog mentioned telling who the story was about (for character driven) versus what the story was about (for plot driven). Lynn agreed with that concept. Again, this is something I never considered when writing a query.

Tess - I was thinking about the character driven aspect on the way home from work and realized that pretty much everything I've written in the past few years is character driven. It's all about the characters - their motivation, their emotions, thought process, consequences, more so than an over-arching plot. Go figure. Now, the question is, why do I write character driven novels versus plot driven novels?

scott g.f.bailey said...

Because how people are is more interesting that what they do? My current novel has a strong (I tell myself) plot, but it only exists to put the characters into situations where they have to react emotionally, because that's what interests me.

Scott said...

Scott - does the plot totally drive the story, the characters, a combination of both, one aspect a bit more than the other?? Aren't the majority of stories, for the most part, character driven? Isn't it the actions/reactions of the characters that drive things forward . . . regardless of the plot? Arrrggh, too many questions and not enough coffee.

WindyA said...

Thanks! I haven't actually really thought that hard about this part. Character & Plot for some of us are so interwoven, it's hard to focus on one without becoming distracted by the other.

Food for thought as I move into drafting my next query letter.

Scott said...

Windy - Lynn's blog really made things gel together for me. I never really gave much thought about doing a query from a plot versus character driven perspective, but it does make sense.

behlerblog said...

Scott, dear. My last name is Price - not Behler. And you're a love for linking my post. Bless ye.

Scott said...

Okay folks, I owe Lynn Price over at Behler Blog a huge, huge, huge apology for screwing up her last name, even though I know her last name because I follow her blog!! Geesh!!

So, Lynn Price - please accept my sincere apologies for screwing up your last name. I promise it won't happen again!

Scott said...

BTW - I corrected Lynn's last name in the post!

behlerblog said...

Heh, no worries, Scott. And please don't cringe at today's post. It's not aimed only at you, but hundreds of others who have done the same thing - and who didn't know my last name.

Thanks again discussing this issue because I believe it'll part the clouds for a lot of authors when writing their query letters.

LR said...

That's an interesting point and useful to think about.

Only thing I wonder is how much of character should we inject into the query. Or should it be more reserved-descriptive. Seems like a fine line.