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Read an interesting thread on the NaNoWriMo boards yesterday, where… - Silicon Rose [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Silicon Rose

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[Aug. 2nd, 2006|09:22 am]
Silicon Rose
[Current Mood |uncomfortablein pain]

Read an interesting thread on the NaNoWriMo boards yesterday, where someone asked about the difference between plot-driven and character-driven fanfic. I was applying the insights in that post against my writers' block in The School, and I think I've realized something that would make the story work better.

One of the people in the thread distinguished plot-driven from character-driven in this way: if your main character suffers because his girlfriend dumped him for another guy, that's plot driven. If your main character suffers because his girlfriend dumped him because she found out he was cheating on her, that's character driven.

Of course, it's a simplification, but stories tend to just work better when the characters suffer because of things they brought on themselves. It provides an immediate engagement on the part of the character, at least if they're aware of what they've done -- they've already acted, so it makes it easier for them to act again, either to affirm or reject their prior action.

One of the major conflicts in the school is Ariel's overprotectiveness of Jesse destroying their relationship. Ariel is willing to give up her dreams to continue going on following Jesse everywhere, 'taking care of her' -- sort of like a martyr syndrome. I realized that I could spin that into the story, having that cause Ariel to come to The School, instead of it just being something that 'happened' to her. That immediately engages her; though she's still in the same place with the same goals, the fact that she made the decision to be there requires more engagement on her part. She has a reason to play along, which makes her early incompetence at psionics a true conflict, something that drives her. I'm still not sure I could Snowflake the story, but I'm definitely getting closer.

I'm also thinking of cutting Robert's perspective. I wanted it, mainly because I feel uncomfortable writing a story entirely from one perspective (it feels, for some reason I can't explain, repetitive), but he just doesn't have the engagement, the desire to DO, and unless I start playing perspective games it tips my hand on the plot too early. I could just do third person objective for his scenes, but somehow I feel it would be ridiculous. It's playing games with the reader, which, okay, has been done to really good effect in the past, but I still balk at it. It requires manipulation, where you carefully orchestrate the conversation so it implies something completely different from what's happening. And if it's not sinister, what am I trying to get across? Bweh.

...and if I need anything from Robert, I can do it better by just using a different character as the conduit. Hey! In a story about psychics, the main character can BECOME Robert, if necessary!

In other news, sunburns suck.

the daystar, it burns...

[User Picture]From: froborr
2006-08-02 06:42 pm (UTC)
Hmm... that definition doesn't quite sit right with me. I'd say it has less to do with what happens and more to do with what the story is about, what it concentrates on. If your story is about what goes on inside a character, or about relationships between characters, it's character-driven. If it's about a sequence of events, it's plot-driven. If it's about the exploration of an idea or concept through narrative (as most classic science fiction, dystopias/utopias, and experimental novels are), it's the oft-ignored class of idea-driven fiction.

That said, most really good stories are all three.

Anyway, I obviously don't know much detail about The School, but having Ariel choose to be there does sound like it'll make the story tighter. Plus, it ties two disparate conflicts together, which is always a good thing.

I've noticed that the online writing community, and especially the fanfic community, seems to have some bizarre rules about perspective I've never heard of. There's no rule that says you can't be limited omniscient (Ariel) for 99% of the story, and have one scene that's limited omniscient (Robert). Most of what I've read has been in straight-up omniscient, where the narrator (there is always a narrator, even if it's a nameless, disembodied voice) tells you what's going on in any character's head whenever he feels like it. Ideally, this is very, very rarely, because you know what's going on in the character's heads by what they do and how they're described. Of course, as you pointed out, the standard notion of perspective goes out the window when you have psychics around.

The main difference between objective and omniscient, as I see it, is that the narration in omniscient is colored by the mood of the characters in the scene, while in objective it's not.

I have no opinion either way on cutting Robert's parts, seeing as I have no idea what they are. Mostly just recording the thinking about perspective your post inspired.

And sunburns do suck, which is why I'm dreading having to leave the house in a couple of hours. I've already had one this year, and I don't want a repeat.

Only total heliocide can save us now! Death to the Sun!
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[User Picture]From: dragonoflife
2006-08-03 11:31 am (UTC)
One thing a writing professor taught me, which seems obvious after hearing it, is that there is no such thing as a character-driven or a plot-driven story -- or rather, the two are indistinguishable.

The upshot of the idea is that what the characters do drives the plot, and what the plot does to the characters drives them. If a given character does *x* in response to plot *y*, then that is your story; a different character would do *z* instead, which would result in a different story.

I always found this a fairly liberating perspective, but at the same time confining, inasmuch as that it relies both on letting your characters be themselves and letting the plot be *itself* and letting them drive each other.
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