Sunday, April 11

On Plot And Character (And Giving Writing Advice At The End Of The World)

I do want to discuss a practical example of this, however, as its fresh on my mind (regardless of the END OF THE WORLDSYNESS going on all around us right now).

As Im wont to note, bullshit fertilizes, and so we continue to share it and give it with the concept that maybe a scattering of it over your garden will assist your story-plants grow. Perhaps it wont. Like were just polishing silver in a housefire, or jerking off throughout a cyclone.

Still, this things is on my mind as I ramp up to write a new story (cough cough, the Wanderers sequel), and the other day on Twitter there had actually been some discussion– started by agent Dongwon Song– about character taking precedence over plot, or leading into plot, or what have you. Characters do shit and state shit, and they do so in pursuit of fixing issues, chasing after desires, and escaping fears. Of course, lots of folks likewise compose in a different way and think about plot considerations first, and then slot in characters who fit that plot, and thats great, too.

Anyway.

No, no, I said evacuate.

Anyone view the program Sex Education on Netflix?

Last scene in the season ending includes a character leaving their phone behind, and on this phone is a voicemail we desire them to hear, and after that another character intervenes– they open the phone, listen to the voicemail, and eliminate it.

Great show. Strolls that line between sweet and sharp, between amusing and unfortunate, between drama and melodrama. The first season I liked a lot more than the second, though; the 2nd season is more irregular, wobbling around unsteadily in between character arcs and inspirations, and theres a keen example of this at the end of the second season.

Prevent if you got ta.

Small spoilers. Mild. Ill give no details however … spoilers are spoilers.

ANYWAY.

Simple enough.

This will require spoilers.

Here goes.

Problem:

The character who left behind the phone is a teenager. Teenagers are perhaps forgetful, however theyre likewise seriously married to their phones (as are we correct adults), and this teenager in particular is sharp, smart, and naturally suspicious of like, literally everybody. And in the first season we saw a character lose their phone and see the result of that. Leaving a phone behind callously is weird. The character isnt simply stepping outside for a cigarette– theyre “strolling into town.” During the night. Its a good range. And they dont take their phone.

Extra problems occur when you recognize you cant simply open someones phone, you have to understand their passcode, however thats rather more surrounding to the point Im attempting to make, which is:

So, to me, thats the lesson– let my characters drive the story. And if theres something I feel is really important, plot-wise, then those plot bits must still be shaped like the character, and not require the characters to be shaped like the plot. Or something.

The episode is really concerned about its PLOT and not really concerned about its CHARACTERS. And I hate whenever Im watching or reading something and one of the characters is all of a sudden acting really unlike themselves, and it feels like the storyteller is shaving off their square corners so theyll fit into the circle hole socket that the plot requires. Its letting the frame be more than just a guide, however rather, an exoskeleton bolted to the narrative.

Who understands. Again, does any of this even matter? Is this simply deck chairs on the Titanic? Maybe. My kid started 4th grade today (practically) and its like, they want to teach him normal Fourth Grade things and a wild-eyed part of me wishes to jump in, NO YOU NEED TO TEACH HIM HOW TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE, WHO GIVES A SHINY FUCK ABOUT VERB TENSES WHEN HE NEEDS TO KNOW HOW TO SPEAR A MUTATED FIRE BOAR COMING OVER THE RIDGE FROM THE RUINS OF OLD SCRANTONIA. Its hard to know what we require to understand going forward, and what will matter. However I understand stories still matter, and how we tell them matters, and letting our characters be themselves is a great method to demonstrate how to maybe also be ourselves off the page, too. As authors and as people. And as mutated fireboar hunters in the Year 2030.

FINE BYE.

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Still, this things is on my mind as I ramp up to write a new story (cough cough, the Wanderers sequel), and the other day on Twitter there d been some conversation– started by agent Dongwon Song– about character taking precedence over plot, or leading into plot, or what have you. Of course, lots of folks likewise compose in a different way and consider plot factors to consider first, and then slot in characters who fit that plot, and thats fine, too. The episode is very worried about its PLOT and not extremely concerned about its CHARACTERS. And I dislike whenever Im viewing or checking out something and one of the characters is unexpectedly acting very unlike themselves, and it feels like the writer is shaving off their square corners so theyll fit into the circle hole socket that the plot needs. And if theres something I feel is truly vital, plot-wise, then those plot bits should still be shaped like the character, and not require the characters to be shaped like the plot.

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