24 March 2010

Character Versus Plot

Which do you prefer? Character development? Plot? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle?

Last weekend I was attempting to read The Adamantine Palace (Stephen Deas), attempting being the operative word because I kept getting....well, stuck. I discussed this issue with the lovely and talented Meredith (Shayne), who is currently reading the same book, and came to the realization that the book was, for me, lacking...lacking in the in depth characterization and introspection that I had come to know and love from reading Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths series (yes, that series again *grin)*. The plot was present, yes, but....in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter to me. I wanted 3D characters. I wanted to get inside their heads and, well, wallow in their thoughts and feelings. (The phrase 'happy as a pig in mud' springs to mind :) So, in order to keep my sanity (because me not reading is a very bad thing) I gave up on The Adamantine Palace and picked up Josh Lanyon's The Hell You Say...and I'm currently wallowing in the characters! *sings* 'Oh Happy Day!'.

I think the plot versus character issue raised its head earlier this month when I was reading Lynn Flewelling's Luck in the Shadows. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and I will definitely be reading the second book in the Nightrunner series - Stalking Darkness. But...I couldn't put my finger on what it was that was lacking while I was reading Luck in the Shadows...and now I can. I wanted to crawl inside the two main character's heads and I felt like I couldn't. I didn't feel connected to them...and I need that when I'm reading.

I was chatting about this with the lovely Kerry from Saving My Sanity yesterday. Kerry made the very good point that it does depend upon your frame of mind as to whether the lack of character or plot is...bearable. And she's right. If I'm in a...calm place, then I can usually accept less character development. But if I'm stressed I need that connection. Because...because it's that connection that allows me to escape from here and go...there *grin*

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that attempting to read The Adamantine Palace made me realize how much I love character-based books and how...uninterested I find plot-based books IF they don't have 3D characters. And I'm curious, where do you sit in the character versus plot debate?

13 comments:

  1. Oh. I've, um, never thought about it. *blink blink*

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  2. There has to be a balance--character introspection without story is a bit too much like the emotional, angsty teen in your life, you know? Exhausting!

    But without character development, why should I care about what happens? [Unless it's an outright mystery--though even then I prefer the characters not to be cardboard placeholders]


    So... yeah, a balance. :grin:

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  3. Characters all the way. Great characters can carry a book with not much plot; but too much plot is simply exhausting. And if I don't care about the characters, I don't care about the plot, either.

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  4. I'm a characters girl. I think an author that can create a "person" that is interesting and makes you want to know them more is an author I will read more of. The plot is important, too... but if I find it hard to connect to a character, I don't really care what happens to them :)

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  5. I'm a characterisation-ho. I'm willing to forgive a lot of things about a story as long as there is decent characterisation. When it's the other way round... not so much. Poor characterisation is also one of the first things that I always notice in a story too.

    I think I might be obsessed.

    Just a little. ;D

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  6. Chris - are you funning me? *grin*

    azteclady - good point about having a story tipped too far towards characterization that it becomes an effort to wade through the introspection. Everything in moderation, yes :)

    heidenkind - you took the words out of my mouth. And I think that was the problem with The Adamantine Palace. I didn't feel like I knew the characters, and so I didn't care to keep reading about them.

    Mariana - me too! I do need plot, but...I NEED characterization.

    Kris - if you're obsessed then so am I! It's always more fun with two :)

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  7. I love, love to read a story with characters that have depth, but there has to be a balance between the characterization and the plot for the story to be complete. Having said that, if you give me the choice between reading a character-driven book as opposed to a plot-driven one, I'll choose the first every single time. :)

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  8. Hilcia - me too :) But I do agree about there needing to be a balance.

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  9. Definitely character-driven. My favorites tend to be the ones where I loved the characters, like The Doctrine of Labyrinth books. :) Unless it's an unusually exciting plot, I just don't find it that interesting if I don't enjoy spending time with the characters.

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  10. Kristen - I think Doctrine of Labyrinths has changes the way I view fantasy...I need that in-depth characterization or I don't feel connection, and no connection means I get bored...

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  11. I know the feeling, Orannia. If I don't have good characterization, I tend to get bored too - because if you can't care, what's the point? Sometimes finding a really good series like that spoils you - after reading both The Doctrine of Labyrinths and Wraeththu, I've never read a fantasy that compares as far as characterization.

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  12. I'm much more swayed by great characters than intricate plotting. A book has to have a minimum competency in both areas in order to succeed, but I can enjoy a book with great characters and weaker plotting better than the other way around.

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  13. Kristen - ARRGHHH! I haven't picked up the first Wraeththu book yet. Bad orannia! I'm re-boxing a number of my books this long weekend so I am going to create a 'TBR' box...and put the Wraeththu book at the top, particularly after your comment about characterization :)

    Nicola - me too :) I like a good plot, but I need good characterization.

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