Friday, January 21, 2011

Author N.R. Williams, Guest Blogger

It’s my pleasure to welcome author N.R. Williams as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today as she makes a stop on her virtual book tour.

N.R. “Nancy,” who is also a fellow blogger, has just released her novel, THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM. She visits today to talk about plot versus character-driven novels. Be sure to check the end of the post for guidelines because Nancy is giving away 3 e-books during her tour. Now Nancy’s thoughts on plot versus character.

I want to thank Mason for letting me visit all of you on my blog book tour for, “THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM.”
I remember the day that I began to think in terms of turning the stories that I crafted into actual books. That day, while I researched writing, I came across a book on “plot.” To me, that word meant nothing. I bought the book and as I read I realized yes, I did know what “plot” was, I just wasn’t used to saying the word “plot.”

Plot is a chain of cause-and-effect relationships that constantly create a pattern of unified action and behavior. 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Why do we say “plot-driven,” or “character-driven?”

There are some books that are clearly “plot driven.” They tend to have shallow characters that move upon a stage of events that will lead them to the evitable conclusion. Thankfully, they are becoming rare, because without compelling characters, why do we care?


I’ve had numerous readers and authors at many events say to me. “I don’t like fantasy because it is plot-driven.” This is an inaccurate statement. Who can forget, Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, or Frodo, to name only two? Aslan in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis who represents God. Most recently, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. All these characters became very real to me and their journey mattered.

We identify with characters. If they are well crafted, we root for them. We strive to understand what motivates the villain so we can forgive him or even side with him. A good writer will endeavor to create multidimensional characters. In others words, deep.
Recently I came across a blog post written by Donald Maass at Writer Unboxed.

He said. A journey needn’t involve travel but it does enact a transformation. For a transformation to occur, two things are needed: outward events and inward change.
Great novels use both. Novelists talk all the time about their characters’ “journeys” but in manuscripts I rarely feel like I’ve taken one. Usually one part or the other is valued, but not both. In fact, so fundamental is this dichotomy that it’s embodied in two terms taken for granted in our business: A novel is said be either “plot-driven” or “character-driven”.
Why not both?


I must agree. In my high or epic fantasy, “THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM,” there is a lot at stake for my characters. Missie wants to go home, at the same time she is drawn to Gil-Lael with increasing force. Prince Healden (pronounced with a silent “a” like Hel-don), desires to protect Missie and more, but is also faced with a threat that could end his way of life and that of the people of Gil-Lael. The villain, Renwyk, believes he should rule the world. While that isn’t new, the method he uses is.

These characters are motivated by what matters to them. The “plot” drives them together with compelling force. I hope I have achieved what Donald Maass referred to. Why not both?

I will stop by all day to answer your questions. Thank you for reading.
N. R. Williams (Nancy)


Nancy, thank you for guest blogging today. It does take both plot and characters to make a story interesting and inviting.

Now a bit about Nancy. She lives in Colorado, U.S.A. with her husband. She is delighted to have two three-year-old grandchildren, cousins. She’s a long time member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and has been privileged to attend conferences and workshops. Since her formative years, she’s been inventing fantastical stories and since she could spell she’s been writing them down. While she majored in art in college, she didn’t make a living at it. Now, she uses her skills of observation to create fantastical worlds, interesting characters and stories that touch the heart.

Now about the giveaway. Nancy is giving 3 e-books, to 3 winners who leave their e-mail along with their comment during her tour. The drawing will be held on Feb. 1 and will be posted on Nancy’s blog, N.R Williams, Fantasy Author.. She will also be e-mailing the winners. Winners will have a choice between kindle, iBookstore or Barnes and Nobles for the e-book. One book per winner.

THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM is available for $2.99 until July 1, when it will increase to $3.99. In the UK, the book is available for 2.23 pd sterling and will go up to 3.23.

Nancy continues her tour Monday, Jan. 24, when she visits Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel to discuss “Character Driven vs World Driven in Fantasy & Sci Fi.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, she’ll visit Dominic de Mattos at Writes of Passage where she will be playing the “What If” Game.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, she visits Clarissa Draper at Listen To The Voices to discuss “What inspired me to write about music as a power and why the flute.”

On Thursday, Jan. 27, she visits with Denise at L’Aussie Writing to talk about “What Elements are in the Story? (Romance, Suspense, Mystery?)”

On Friday, Jan. 28, she’ll visit Jeffrey Beesler at Jeffrey Beesler’s World of the Scribe to talk about “Why I Write Fantasy.”

On Monday, Jan. 31, she’ll make her last stop talking with Sherry Wachter who writes as Bodie Parkhurst at Magic Dog Press. She’ll talk about “Why You Should Hire an Editor & Professional Illustrator.” BTW, Sherry illustrated her book.

Be sure to leave your e-mail in your comments for a chance to win one of 3 e-books. What are your thoughts on plot versus character-driven novels?


36 comments:

  1. Nancy, thanks again for blogging here today. I love the cover of THE TREASURES OF CARMELIDRIUM. The flute is very catchy. Wishing you the best of luck with your writing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree, a good book is both character and plot driven. I like characters that feel real, perhaps someone I'd like to meet. For sure someone I'll visit more than once. I tend to read good books more than once. That's partly because of the characters but also because of the world the author created feels so real it's like taking a vacation when I read it again. I can't even tell you how many times I've read all the books in The Dragon Riders of Pern series. I love to visit Pern,

    I enjoyed your article ma'am.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yup, we readers definitely want both character and plot! I have kind of a random question, Nancy (if it's been answered somewhere obvious, like your website, then I'm really sorry for missing it!). Is this a stand alone novel or part of a series?

    ReplyDelete
  4. When a character feels real to me, that's when I car about them, and root for them. So I do like character driven stories that really let us in to their hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post. I agree. The perfect novel is when both plot and character is in top form. Can't wait until you visit my blog. It's ready to go!
    CD

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Mason, pleased to meet you.

    Nancy, I guess I'm not the first to agree with you on this, but for me, unless a book is 'literary', it has to be strong on both plot and character. If it's not, then the wider reading audience will put it aside before finishing it. Thanks for today's post.
    bcd_tony@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I also think it's important for novels to be both character and plot driven, although in a few exceptional cases I believe the plot can fade into the background a little if the characters and literature are super strong. 'Hotel du Lac' by Penelope Lively springs to mind for me. I have to care about a character to stay engaged in a book.

    Another interesting stop on your tour, Nancy - have a great weekend.
    margo.benson@yahoo.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, Nancy! I agree on having both. It's my goal. I'm enjoying learning more about you and your writing process.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My book was originally plot driven, but as it was developed the characters really took over. Its importnt the reader form an affinity with someone in your book. They have to care that they live at the end, not that they merely save the day.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice to see you again too, Mason. I also love the cover.

    I'm glad you mentioned that, Sia. I love certain book so much that they are available anytime I need a refreshing drink.

    Hi Rachel, this is the first book in a series. Eventually it will probably have a series catch, but I haven't thought of one yet.

    On Tuesday, Feb, 1, when I do the drawing I will also answer the questions everyone has been asking in more detail.

    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  11. I loved seeing this post. One of the reasons I've steered away from fantasy is the fact that it's plot driven most of the time. The exceptions are those you mention,Nancy. Unforgettable characters or characters you identify strongly with, or characters you simply care what happens to, that is what keeps me turning the pages of a book. Yes, I want to know what happens to the, but more importantly, I want to know how they feel and react to what happens. Thanks for this thoughtful post.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh dear, I forgot to say thank you for hosting me Mason. Now on to more comments.

    A good fantasy will be both, L Diane. I've read some that were lacking.

    Hi Joanne, I agree, the story hinges on whether the reader cares about the characters.

    I can't wait to visit you as well, Clarissa.

    Well said, Tony. You left your email address so I have you entered into the contest.

    So true. I think if we are engaged in what matters to the characters and what is keeping them from their goals, we don't notice the plot. You also left your email address so I have entered you into the drawing to win a free e-book.

    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  13. An excellent goal, Carol. I'm glad you like the blog book tour.

    I agree Stephen. My characters tend to take over. I am currently writing a novella in the same world as my fantasy. I have one character who wants to be heard, so I will probably go back to his side of things and see where that takes me.

    Karen, you bring up some excellent points. I hope you will try my fantasy and see if you like it as well.

    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  14. Plot is important, but if an author fails to interest me in her characters, I stop reading after 50 pages.

    Pat Bean
    http://patbean.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Pat, I agree. You left your email so I have you entered in the contest to win one of 3 e-books.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  16. I agree that the best quality books combine the strength of both. I think about a few recent favorites, such as "The Hummingbird's Daughter" and "The Road," and I see both plot and character driving the story. Thanks for the reminder about character, which comes at a helpful time for me. Right now I'm working on a tough chapter of my historical novel in which the protagonist is, for the moment, a three-year-old child. It's interesting realizing how difficult it is for such a young child to drive action, because she has so little control over the world around her. It seems easier to have things happen to her, rather than to have her drive action. But you've made me consider that perhaps I should dig deeper for what powerful influences a child can exert on others. In fact, just now, as I write this, I think I see something she can do, so that she's more than a victim of circumstance. I think you just helped me solve a huge problem. Thanks, Nancy!

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's a great compliment Cara. Good luck with your character. I happen to have a 3 year old living with me right now and I can say, he drives a lot of action with his insistence to interrupt all the adults in his life.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've crossed paths with Nancy a couple of times on her tour and enjoy hearing about other aspects of this book and her writing in general. Not sure if multiple entries are in order (and I know I've entered before) but my e-mail is linda@lindaleszczuk.com. Thanks, Mason, for hosting.

    By the way - as a reader, I'm so character driven I will forgive all kinds of plot weaknesses if I'm caught up in the characters, so plot is definitely secondary with me.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Agreed Holly.

    Hi Linda, yes you can leave your email more than once and in fact you should at every stop. The characters are number one with me too, but as a writer, I must consider a strong plot.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  20. I would think a good story needs both!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I think romances usually are character-driven stories, but they should have plot has well. If character is the most important element, I would consider stories character-driven.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, Nancy, and thanks, Mason, for hosting her!

    Monti

    NotesAlongTheWay

    ReplyDelete
  22. love the title and the genre of Mrs. Williams' book!

    ReplyDelete
  23. hooray for Nancy! She is doing a terrific job marketing her book. I'm seeing it everywhere! Best of luck to you, girl~ :o) <3

    ReplyDelete
  24. I agree Monti.

    Thank you Dezmond.

    I appreciate your thoughts LTM, time will tell.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi all, just wanted to pop in quickly and say thanks for dropping by. Sorry I've been absent but a crazy day a work continues.

    Nancy, thanks again for being here today. You've made me rethink fantasy. Best of luck with your writing.

    Hope everyone has a great day and a wonderful weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I agree, a good book is both character- and plot-driven. Even though I tend to enjoy books that are plot-driven, without truly compelling characters, the ones that really resonate with me are the ones that have 3-dimensional characters.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yay Nancy!!! Can't wait to read the book! :)

    There are so many great fantasy novels with great characters! I can't believe some folks might not know that - so sad!

    My email is jemifraser@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thank you again Mason for hosting me. I'm really glad you are rethinking fantasy.

    3-dimensional characters takes time to build as a writer, but it is so worth it, Golden. I love those books too.

    Hi Jemi, our concepts of what this or that is, is a tough one to overcome. But when it comes to books, all it takes is reading a really good one to change our perception. I'm so glad you want to read my book. You left your email address so I've entered you in the contest.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great post. I like that you were striving to achieve that compelling force that drove your characters to do what they needed to do.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi Mason and Nancy .. I love reading this .. and quite understand when you said you didn't know what a 'plot' was! I'm learning so much from all the authors around .. plot, character, different styles ... us readers out there .. just sort of read, without realising the important aspects and nuances for each novel produced.

    Thanks for the enlightenment and good luck with the novel = fantastic it's been published .. good for you - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thank you Meredith. You left your email so you are in my contest.

    Hi Hilary, learning the trade of writing is a challenge, but well worth the effort.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

    ReplyDelete
  32. I need a character I can root for, laugh with, cry with, or scream at. I need a character who evokes me. It's nice to have a plot, but I find plots and characters can go hand in hand to make the reading experience much more enjoyable.

    jeffreybeesler (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.