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The Chicken and the Egg Debate

Along the same lines of what came first, the chicken or the egg, there is a debate in my current class among various authors of what drives a story, is the plot or characters? Interesting as it is, the answer is quite simple (to me anyway). It depends on where you want your story to go. Obviously a plot only story cannot thrive without characters getting in the way. But, what is plot? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is defined as: the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.

My go-to buddy Dufresne says plot is “the element of fiction that shapes the many other elements–character, theme, point of view, language, and so on–into a story”.

So where does one get a plot? Well, it’s probably the one thing you cannot buy on Amazon, unless you are into plagiarism. Plot is more than just an idea for a story. It is a series of sequences getting your characters from point A to point B. It can be full of twists and turns or it can be smooth sailing. Either way, you don’t have a story without a plot. You can write a great setting having great characters sit around the table for Sunday dinner but until one of them bites into the ham that reminds them of the ham sandwich they ate ten years ago and suffered food poisoning which did not allow her to get to the airport to fly to her beloved side to answer “yes” to his marriage proposal and then shut down for three years and her fight back to the dinner table, you don’t have a plot. A plot moves a story along. Even poetry (which I admit, I don’t understand) has a plot because without it we don’t know why the bees fly to Kansas every winter.

A plot, then, is also a verb. It has to be. Movement, and continuous movement, makes fiction work.

As author you are only the co-pilot as it is your characters and plot that make things happen.

And we will get back to the debate.

Next week: Taking an idea an running with it

Until next time….

Work Cited:

Dufresne, John, The Lie that Tells the Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 2003

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