By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)
People often ask what comes first: character or plot?
Do you start with a character? Or do you start with a plot?
This is too simplistic.
Here’s what you need for a novel:
A main character
With a problem or goal
Obstacles to that goal, which are resolved by the end.
PLOT is essential for all novels. It’s not as easy as just sitting down and just starting to write 80,000 words. Ask yourself:
What does your main character want? Why can’t he get it?
Your character wants something. It could be safety, money, love, revenge…
There are obstacles in the way of her getting what she wants. THAT PROVIDES CONFLICT.
So…you need a character, with a problem or goal, and obstacles to reaching that goal. Believable obstacles that matter. Even in a literary novel.
There must be RISK. Your character must stand to lose a lot, if they don’t overcome those obstacles. In crime books, it’s usually their life.
So…you may think you have a nice story of a man and woman meeting and falling in love, and deciding to make a commitment. Awfully nice for the man and woman, but dead boring for the reader. Even in a romance, there must be obstacles to the man and woman getting together. If you don’t have obstacles, you don’t have conflict, you don’t have a plot, and you don’t have a novel.
Put another way:
When X happens, Y must do Z, otherwise ABCD will happen.
That’s what you need for a novel.
GIVE YOUR CHARACTER GOALS
1. Readers must know what each character’s goals are so they can keep score.
2. Goals must be clearly defined, and they must be evident from the beginning.
3. There must be opposition, which creates the possibility of losing.
>>this conflict makes up your plot<<
4. Will the character achieve his goal? Readers will keep turning pages to find out.
If you don’t provide goals, readers will get bored.
They won’t know the significance of the ‘actions’ the hero takes.
Until we know what your character wants, we don’t know what the story is about.
Until we know what’s at stake, we don’t care.