What’s more important to a story: a gripping plot or compelling characters? The best fiction is rich in both. This hands-on guide to creating a well-rounded novel embraces both of these crucial story components. Plot Versus Character takes the guesswork out of creating great fiction by giving you the tools you need to inject life into your characters and momentum into your plot. (from the back cover)
A follow-up to his first craft book, The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, Jeff Gerke’s second book is exactly as the title suggests – a look at crafting deep, believable characters and attention-holding plots.
Gerke begins by identifying novelists as one of two types: character-focused and plot-focused writers. By focusing on one aspect and ignoring the other, however, writers often end up with one of two stories: rich, interesting characters who do nothing, or stereotypical, shallow characters saving the world. Though he encourages readers to know which type of writer they are, Gerke’s book discusses both sides and is mapped out to take a writer through the entire process – from character development to the denouement – in order to create a well-rounded novel.
The first section of the book – Memorable Characters – walks you through character development. Gerke starts with Core Personality and Physical Attributes, digs into the character psyche to find The Knot (core issue/struggle), and takes you right to The Final State. It’s more than just knowing whether or not your hero is an introvert. Gerke looks at the complete inner workings of your characters. He shows you the steps to take to find out every little cog that makes them tick. By the time you finish, you’ll know your characters better than you know your spouse.
The second section – Marvelous Plots – looks at the external components of the story: the plot. Using a traditional Three Act layout, Gerke takes the information from section one and shows you how to weave your Memorable Characters into the Marvelous Plots. He shows, using numerous examples from books and movies, how characters and plot work together, complimenting each other to tell a captivating story.
Plot Versus Character is easy to read and hard to put down. I kept a notepad beside me, writing down ideas and concerns that I have for my current work-in-progress. This is not a beginner’s craft book. Gerke doesn’t discuss Point-Of-View or Show vs. Tell. This book is more for the writer working on the story, as opposed to the writer working on the writing. He digs deeper and challenges his readers to not just write stories about people, but to write gripping stories about realistic people. A must-read for any novelist. I’ll be reading it again soon.