Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Character Anyone?

I've been thinking all week about the dynamic difference between fiction that is character driven, vs fiction that is plot driven. To state it ever so simply: in the former, the character drives the plot and in the latter, the plot drives the character.

My writing gears toward the character-driven variety, and today I am stuck: I have reached the climax of a story, and there are so many different ways my main character could react to the situation she's found herself embroiled in. Only what is organic to her?

When I'm stuck like this, I know that I have to go deeper into character, I can't force the plot. I have to go back to asking questions about her motivations. What does she want most?

And then I also have to look at why I'm stuck in my writing. Where else am I stuck in my life? Is the story of my own life moving forward?

When my students say: I don't know what to write, we will brainstorm, and then I tell them to write through it, to try something, anything. To take the risk and see what happens. To experience being free. That there are no mistakes.

We usually tell others what we really need to hear ourselves, don't we?

So I will take my own advice and dive back in.


  1. I'm the same as far as character-driven stories, which I have trouble ending. Your point our own lives/plots moving forward is something I've also contemplated. Is my story not ending because my life is character driven? What do I really want? Does my character want something bad enough? Do I want to write this story bad (ack, not badly!) enough? I told my workshoppers Wednesday to write as many possible endings (no matter how ridiculous) and number them, an exercise I tried last week on my own short story after getting stuck in the plot. And it worked. I was so relieved! Even if the plot doesn't end up with that actual climax, I feel good having something to write toward. I hope you are moving forward soon. Great post (and like the blog look)!

  2. Thank you so much Amanda, for your wonderful and thoughtful extension of this post! This is the kind of contact I crave to engage in - an exchange of ideas! In workshops, we often brainstorm multiple endings out loud, but not written down. I shall have to try that!

  3. What an interesting concept. I wonder if I have left my character stuck in the kitchen of the strange house she finds herself in for the last 2 years not because I haven't had the time to write (wait make that 3 years) but because I too am stuck in the kitchen (which is a metaphor for what?) in my own life and cannot figure out how to get myself out? So if I write her out, will I too get out? Hmmmm.

  4. Hmmmm indeed! Thank you for sharing, sweet lady!

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