Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two Types of Writers

Through absolutely no scientific analysis, I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of writers.

To create a good book, a writer must have two things: an intriguing plot and well-formed characters. Everything else (setting, tone, style) comes naturally when those two things are in place. For example: if you want to have a mystery set in a contained area, and two characters who explore the confines of the area, you could have a book set in a distopic futuristic world that is set in a city underground (such as Ember). Although I don't know Jeanne DuPrau, I'm betting Ember started with Lina and Doon and the premise of the city, and the other details, including the setting, developed from that.

Therefore, since two key elements are most essential to writing, there are two kinds of writers: those whose natural tendancy is for plot, and those who lean towards character development. (I suppose there could be another kind, those who just naturall excel at both, but such a thought makes me gag with jealousy.)

Plot-writers figure out the premise of their book first. Their first question is along the lines of "what if X happened?" and they build characters around that idea. The events are most important, and the book focuses on the progression of the plot (what happens next). Their natural talent is tension.

Character-writers know their characters before their plot. They have an idea of a person, and then develop a situation for that person to explore. How the character changes is more important than the plot itself, and the book focuses on the progression of the character (how does So-and-so deal with X). Their natural talent is emotion and perspective description.

Now, obviously, for a book to be successful it will need elements of both kinds of writing. My only argument is that most writers do one of these things very well, and have to work harder at the other.

Me, I'm a plot girl. That's why now, while I'm revising my current WIP, I'm focusing more on character development and adding in more emotion, but I don't think I have as much of a problem in tension or plot twists.

So, is this true? Are there really two types of writers? And if so, where do you land?

12 comments:

keri mikulski :) said...

Interesting... Hmmm.. I guess I'm a character girl because I'm always messing with the plot. But, the plot is what I start with. This is a good one. :)

beth said...

Thanks! I thought I needed to break up the book reviews :)

Christine M said...

I'd say I'm more character driven - because I always seem to be trying to figure out the plot to my stories. -- though, that said - my two recent WIPs started with more of a plot idea - and they went fairly smoothly.

beth said...

The quickest book I ever wrote was based on character--but I've never been able to emulate that and am much more of a plot girl now.

Which I think actually works against me, as I think that character-writers are stronger in voice than plot-writers.

Tabitha said...

I'm definitely a plot girl. Setting up tension and twists with multiple layers comes naturally to me. Character development, however, not so much. I know them well, really well, but I'm not so good at putting that on the page.

Tabitha said...

And I totally agree that character writers have a stronger voice than plot writers. Sucks for us. :)

beth said...

Heh, yeah...I usually have to work on voice, too. But I'm the same as you, Tabitha!

PJ Hoover said...

I think I alternate based on what book I'm working on. That said, that emotion thesaurus is really helping me become more character oriented. It goes beyond just doing a character worksheet. It makes you think what the character would actually physically do, which I love. And which also helps build the scene.
Really good post, Beth!

beth said...

Glad you liked it PJ! I've not done too much research into the emotion thesaurus, but maybe I should...

Vivian said...

Hmmm. Great post, Beth! I'd say I'm character driven, but it all has to start off first with an interesting premise.

beth said...

Glad you liked, Vivian! And I'm with you on the importance of the premise...

Deirdre Mundy said...

Great post and a really good blog! (something for me to aim for, I guess. =) )

I'm definitely a character girl. If I plot it first, I never write it because once I know the ending, I get bored.

Instead, I take a character and a situation. My first draft is basically 'sandbox mode'-- My characters write the plot for me, and then I have to go back and fix any discrepancies.

I like writing this way because it's as exciting as reading! =) And sometimes the characters just get totally out of control and I end up screaming "No! No! I didn't want to DO that!!!"

good times... =)