It’s become an old adage of writing advice that, in a great story, character and plot are inextricable from one another. Character doesn’t dominate, and the plot doesn’t dominate. Rather, the seeds of conflict lie in the character, and the chain of events that unfolds couldn’t possibly exist in the exact same way, or have the same repercussions, for someone else.
In his recent essay for Glimmer Train, novelist and writing teacher Joshua Henkin comments on the how the roots of character grow the branches of plot. He says:
My graduate students often tell me they have trouble with plot, but what they’re really telling me is they have trouble with character. I remind my students to ask themselves a hundred questions about their characters. Better yet, they should ask themselves a thousand questions, because in the answers to those questions lie the seeds of a narrative.
Also this month from Glimmer Train:
- On Dialogue by Rowena Macdonald
- All of Old. Nothing Else Ever. Ever Tried. Ever Failed. by Silas Dent Zobal
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.