A Study in Plot versus Character – NaNoWriMo Day #3

posted in: Writing Goals 0

Unfortunately it’s late and I don’t feel much like writing a super in-depth blog post (my pajamas and a nice glass of red wine are calling my name) but I did want to check in and talk a little bit about what I focused on today. Instead of filling out the scene cards from All of a Quiver (which is my title for the launch book I am using as inspiration for my manuscript), I worked on the character sheets from BIAM (Day #4 worksheets). I also am doing a close read of Act 1. And as I was filling out the character sheets and pondering what worked and didn’t work in this Harlequin Presents, I realized AGAIN that it wasn’t the plot that was bothering me but the characters. The hero especially is a spoiled, conceited asshole and the heroine is too inconsistent for me to like (is she an unsophisticated, naive girl from the backwoods of Scotland or is a strong, resourceful woman who can hold her own? I’m not saying she can’t be a bit of both but not the way this author describes her).

Anyway, as I was rereading the initial meet between the hero and heroine in AOQ, I got to wondering what it was about the way this author described the heroine’s initial impression of the hero that was bugging me so much. So I went back to two of my favorite older romances, Lover in the Rough by Elizabeth Lowell and Open Season by Linda Howard and I actually hand wrote out the paragraph where the heroine meets the hero for the first time. Then I wrote out the paragraph from AOQ and it was like the difference between listening to a first year piano student and a virtuoso. I promise to use specific examples in a future post but it was eye opening to me. While AOQ focused on describing the hero as “classically handsome” and all his physical beauty in very purplish language, Elizabeth Lowell and Linda Howard made the hero’s memorable and intriguing – not only for the heroine but for the reader (this also reminds me that I need to reread the initial meet in The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale and see how she handled the breathtaking beauty of the hero without it coming off as trite and annoying).

For me as a reader (and I suspect this will be doubly true for me as a writer), the characters are the heart and soul of the story, not what makes up the plot. And while the worksheets of BIAM wanted me to work on the plot first, I’m glad I decided to focus on character instead because to me characters should be driving the plot. They should be taking action to make things happen, things should not be happening to them, like getting hit by a random lightening bolt from the sky. And so, while my progress continues to be slow, I am hopeful that by the end of this week, I’ll have taken a good stab at all of the worksheets from BIAM for Act I and I’ll be able to write my pages quickly. And while I’m writing, I’ll hopefully start working on the worksheets for Act II (which covers Weeks #3 and #4 of BIAM) and be able to produce those pages as well. I’m not nearly as confident that I’ll be able to get all 200 pages done before the end of the month, but I’ll have a better idea when I start the actual writing.

Today’s Writing Goals: This is a bit tricky to explain easily but I’ll try. I’m filling out the character sheets for AOQ as the author created her characters. But I’m going to need to fill out new sheets for how I’d like the characters to be instead. So in a weird way, I’m going through the same worksheets twice for the hero and heroine but I think this will help me in developing better characters (and it will definitely help me with plotting out better scenes, which reminds me that I still need to fill out scene cards but I’ll get there). I’ve gotten a good start and now I just need to finish those up.

Leave a Reply