Friday, August 16, 2013
Great Characters vs Great Plots. Which is a Stronger Hook for You?
Anna Staniszewski did a great post recently on Six Reasons I Stopped Reading (And How to Avoid Them) and it triggered an interesting conversation on Twitter. The discussion was on how flat characters can kill a great premise, and I realized something interesting.
If I don't care for a character, I'll stop reading the book, but I'll often skim ahead or check the end to see what happens.
If I don't like the plot, I stop reading even if I really like the characters.
Does this mean the plot is a stronger hook for me than the characters?
I find this particularly interesting because I'm the opposite in movies and TV. I'll watch the same plot over and over if I love the characters. Some shows, I don't care about the plot at all and just enjoy the interplay between the people. I might even make fun of the plot, but it has Soandso in it and I love Soandso so I watch anyway.
Perhaps a visual medium is more forgiving, or there's the added benefit of seeing an actual person versus imagining one. I suspect viewers also bring in their memories and feelings about the actors from other roles, which doesn't translate the same for books.
Obviously both are important to a great story, and when both work we get magic, but this has made me wonder if plot-driven writers are hooked more by plot, and character-driven writers are hooked more by character. (and if the opposite is true for movies and TV). Does one aspect call out to a writer who leans toward that aspect?
I know plot grabs me first when I'm book shopping (well, cover and title actually do, but I'm talking about after it's in my hot little hands). If a cover blurb doesn't offer me an interesting plot I put the book back down. If it focuses too much on the character and why she's special, I tend to set it back down.
I don't know if this means anything beyond "we like what we like," but maybe a preference could shed light into why we "write what we write."
So what about you? Are you hooked by character or plot first? Do you stop reading if one is working but not the other?