Plot as Illumination of Character

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Writer, Know Thyself: Plot & Character

I came to a sudden realization the other day when I was working on Dowse and Bleed then the collaboration and also thinking about all the aggravating articles recently claiming the three-act structure is the only one: I really don't care about plot.

Now, this doesn't mean I dislike plot or that I don't think it's important, but I do mean it's not even a secondary consideration for me. I care about structure because structure is fun, especially for a poet, but I don't take any time to analyze my own plots or even to develop them. That holds no interest for me, and I don't look for a particular plot in books I read. In fact, that's why I adore love stories and am so totally sick of romances. I'm not interested in the "how did they fall in love" and we're done here. I'm interested in two separate people and then how they interact together, etc.

I wrestled with this for another day before I finally came to the conclusion on how I could not care about something so fundamental to story. Most writing articles and books address characters that drive the plot and plots that are born out of the characters' struggles. That makes for a good story, but I'll probably never, ever write that kind of story ever.

I love plots that illuminate character. And that's probably why I tend strongly to the literary side of genre and love Jodi Picoult's books, even though I've heard some genre writers sneer at them. Her books are complicated messy stories about characters. The plots reveal the characters, rather than characters driving the plot.

Dowse and Bleed is the most incredibly plotty story I've ever written in my life. When I wrote that first draft, it was a quick ramble through a decent, engaging plot, but when I came back to it, it was with two questions: whose story is this and why is it her story? Out flowed something considerably deeper and much more 'me.' The plot is secondary because it exists to reveal something about Rachelle and no other reason.

This is also why I haven't been able to get through Collateral Damage yet, I'm pretty sure, or any of the other Special Unit fics percolating in my head. That revelation, that core idea, isn't there for me yet. I wrote Dowse and Bleed from a prompt about the sides of love:

I've looked at love from both sides now / From give and take, and still somehow / It's love's illusions I recall / I really don't know love at all

"Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell

It's not this perfect match with Rachelle, but it was close enough for me to devote a story to this relationship she has to love and the idea of love. It was an interesting revelation for me.

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