Character vs. plot. Like the friction between dogs and cats, liberals and conservatives, bakers and monkeys, there will never be a quiet moment between which is more important to fiction. Actually I think most people agree it’s character. But I liked my intro.
Every editor, every development executive, my mom – they will all tell you that characters are more important than plot. That a great book, a great TV series (for kids or adults) a great film – is about characters the audience likes and wants to spend time with. Those characters can be under the ocean, in space, in a desert, they can be dogs, humans or monsters. But the characters need to draw you in.
So recently I was a little surpirsed when friends were sharing ideas for kids books and they all started with the location/setting/plot device. I was introduced to strange worlds, bizarre underground caves, even an old western town – before I met anyone. It’s a lonely way to talk about a story. By placing that information first, the creators seemed to be admitting that character is taking a back seat to location and/or plot.
Whenever I am trying to flesh out a story I start writing about the main character, or one of the main characters. (writing 101, I know). I write a page about the character before I ever TALK about where they are or sometimes, what they are. And when I develop the story I try and look back at this start and remember that no matter where the story takes this character, the character comes first. Their failures, their desires, their resentments. Even in a picture book this can be helpful.
Now that I’ve written this, I will work even harder to make sure I follow it!