Monday, August 6, 2012

Plot Driven vs Character Driven

First of all!!!
OVER THE EDGE--Book #3 of the Kincaid Brides Series released August 1st.
There is a drawing today for a signed copy of Over the Edge, Seth Kincaid’s story. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing and, as several of you have already said you’ve got the book, leave a comment anyway and I’ll still send a signed book and you can consider giving the one you’ve got to someone as a gift, or donate it to your church or local library….and hoard the one I’ve signed to you as one of life’s great treasures. (Or use it to keep a table with one short leg from being tippy………whatever) A second chance to win...if you're NOT a subscriber to my newsletter, go and sign up. I'm giving away a copy of Over the Edge to one subscriber and the newsletter goes out soon. (I swear I'm getting one out! I will! I could HAPPEN!!!) CLICK HERE
Then come RIGHT BACK

Now that I've completed the bribery portion of this post, I am actually going to try and make a point
Plot Driven vs Character Driven Stories

Someone asked me once if my books are plot driven or character driven. This is one of those QUESTIONS that fascinate authors. And one of the reason that writers love talking to other writers, because NO ONE ELSE CARES and we tend to bore them into a coma. I'm hoping my cowboy husband comes out of it soon so he can get back to work.

People write How To books on it. At Conferences there are often classes about it. But to me it’s all people struggling to put into words something that is just inherently HARD to put into words.

To me, defining which you are is a waste of time. Plot and Character are simply inseparable. Your book’s gotta have a plot, people. Your characters have to be three dimensional. You can’t have one without the other so stop trying to decide which you are, plot driven or character driven. You’re both. The plot may come first but how the characters act within the plot changes the plot, twists it because three dimensional characters react in a way that is true to them so what characters you create influence the way the story unfolds.
Plot and character are two sides of the same coin.

When I was asked that QUESTION what I said was, “I think of myself as a storyteller. The plot and character influence each other to such an extent that they are inseparable.

Over the Edge begins with Callie Kincaid holding off stage coach bandits. She’s in a gun fight. This opening scene has three strong drives.

One, the story explodes. Bullets fly in the first sentence. This is to drag the reader in, make them care and make them keep turning the pages.

Two, we learn about Callie's character. There’s nothing subtle about a woman firing a rifle with one hand, a six-gun with the other while issuing rapid fire orders to the others in the stage. This is one tough heroine and we know that within seconds of the book opening

Three, I tell my story.


Reveal Character


That’s my plan when I write but how does that fit in with plot vs character? I’m going to attempt to illustrate.
What is plot.
What is character.
I'll do that by color coordinating them. Plot is blue. Character is red.

Chapter One

A bullet slammed through the door of the stagecoach, threading a needle to miss all four passengers.

“It’s a hold-up!” Callie grabbed her rifle. “Get down!”

The stage driver yelled and cracked his whip. More flying lead hit, higher on the stagecoach. The man riding shotgun got his rifle into action.

“Get on the floor.” The woman sitting across from Callie was frozen with fear. That endangered Connor and it made Callie furious.

The bullets came fast. They were going slow on a long uphill slope. With the driver's shout the stage picked up speed. From the roof came a steady volley of deafening return fire.

Reaching reached across, Callie grabbed the woman by the ruffled front of her pink gingham dress and dragged her off the seat. Somewhat more gently, Callie picked Connor up from the seat beside her and set him on the woman’s lap. Eight-month-old Connor yelped, more a shout of anger than a cry. But crying would come soon enough. Her little wild man didn’t do anything quietly.

 “Can you shoot?” She shouted at the young man, hoping he’d snap out of whatever panic had seized him. He shook his head frantically. “Get on the floor.”

Callie used her whiplash voice and hoped it got the man moving. She threw herself across to the woman’s seat to face backward. With her Colt in her left hand and her Winchester in her right, she shoved the curtain aside. The flare of the orange and yellow aspen lining the road blocked any sign of the gunmen.

Callie didn’t bother to push the man to the floor. Let the idiot figure that out himself. She got a glimpse of the robbers riding around a curve. Bullets hailed on the coach. Callie held back, waiting for a clear shot.

Connor’s yelling turned to a cry. Callie was enraged that her son was in such terrible danger when he should have been safe on her father’s ranch in Texas.

The noise overhead said the driver’d slid off his high seat to use the stage as cover. She heard the man riding shotgun land flat on his belly on the roof. The driver's shouting and the gunfire slashed like a sharp knife through the cool October morning.

“Try and calm Connor down.” Not much chance of that. Connor had been a whirlwind since birth. And the two caring for him were more upset than he was.

She counted four outlaws coming at them from behind. The varmints had picked this uphill slope a few miles outside of Colorado City because the stage slowed to a crawl.

Callie had plenty of bullets but she was a conservative woman and she didn’t intend to fire blind and waste lead. She was mighty low on money and she needed ammunition for when she finally tracked down that worthless Seth Kincaid.

Click to Buy Over the Edge.
I fooled around with this for a long time and changed my mind a few times about whether a sentence revealed character or advanced the plot. The green is Connor, revealing his character. It matters because turns out Connor is just like his ever lovin' daddy. Some (most) sentences are simply both. They are both character and plot. How to I separate what is happening from how Callie is acting?

There are some books that are character studies. I’ve read books where, at the end, something actually wraps up and we have a story and I think, “Wow, who knew that was going anywhere?”

I can enjoy a character study if it’s well done but I rarely invest deeply in it, and I think that’s what the author is hoping for, to make you care deeply for their character. They must, otherwise what are they hoping for since they barely have a plot?

And I’ve read books that are just sort of full speed ahead action books that barely take the time to sketch out characters. Most of those books are forgettable. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that really does that…but then maybe I have and I just forgot, huh?

No, the great stories are a mix of the two. Character and plot are inseparable. Is Jurassic Park great without the scientists who are reacting to the dinosaurs? Is Gone with the Wind great without Scarlett and the Civil War?  You need both and you need them to both be great. You need to tell a story that doesn’t survive without vibrant characters. And you need characters who are twisted and turned and pummeled by the plot of your story but who twist and turn the story because of who they are.

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of Over the Edge....What do you think? Do you agree? Have you read fantastic books that are so character driven that you didn’t care what those characters did, you just loved watching them glide through the pages of the book? Have you read stories with such fascinating plots that you can’t remember (and don’t care) about the characters?

Tell me if you disagree (I can take it). Tell me how plot vs character influences your own writing.Tell me which is most important to you. Tell me if you think your WIP is character driven or plot driven?
If you’ve got no opinion but still want your name in the drawing, tell me which Kincaid brother is your favorite.

Their names are Rafe-the tyrant, Ethan-the charmer and Seth-the wildman so if you haven’t read them you can still slap their name in a comment box.

And if you've got a minute, could you please go LIKE me on Amazon?
CLICK HERE, then click LIKE, then come on back. Someone told me it was a good thing on Amazon. I don't understand it but it's easier to just obey than to try and figure out WHY. (I'm pretty sure that's how communists gain power)


  1. Cathybrown4@hotmail.comAugust 6, 2012 at 12:06 AM

    Would love a copy Over The Edge! Got the other two just need the resources for this one! Looks exciting, gotta love cowboys!

  2. Okay, I've taken orders and LIKED you. That's big, 'cause I don't usually mind so well.

    If I have to pick, I tend to think my stories are more plot driven. The storyline, as you pointed out, brings out the characterizations.

    As for my current wip, it's not driven by much of anything yet. I just did the first thousand words of a brand new story. Got a jumble of ideas, but no firm storyline or sequence yet. (How's that for a true confession?)

    But I could be wrong. They may just be pure drivel.


  3. I'm just discovering the way this whole plot/character stuff works, and I'm loving it. I agree with you, Mary - plot and character are so interwoven, there's no way to separate them.

    When I work on plot, I think of how my characters will act, and when I'm working on my characters, they lead me to plot twists I hadn't thought of before.

    (I'm convinced those characters are real people. Just because no one else can see them doesn't make them any less real, does it?)

    Anyway, let's get down to business.

    1) I liked you on Amazon (I did before, I just hit the button to make it official)

    2) I signed up for your newsletter

    3) I already own Seth's story - but haven't read it yet. I know how I am with Mary Connealy books - once I pick one up I can't put it down. So I'm saving all three of the Kincaid brothers for a long weekend...

    4) Favorite brother? I'm going to say Seth, just based on the back cover blurbs :)

    5) If I win the copy of your book, I know just who to give my copy to. Spread the love, right?

    And I'm dropping off ice cream and toppings to make your own sundaes - late night crowd, enjoy!

  4. Oops, the plot thickens.

    I'm in trouble for forgetting to bring the coffee.

    Okay, it's set now.

    Nite nite.

  5. Oh my, "NO ONE ELSE CARES" is so right. I have one friend that truly is interested but I have to stop myself and make it short because in truth, she's a probate clerk and if she talked about her work as much as I talk about mine I'd keel over, so I keep the vision of my husband's eyes glazing over in front of me (because he has the nerve to actually look like what she probably looks like "inside") and try to wrap up whatever I started talking about that has gone on wayyyyy tooo lonnnnng.

    My agent says my book is character-driven, so I'll just go with that. :)

    And I've already liked your Amazon page. Your posts always make me chuckle.

    JAN! Thanks for the ice cream, lady. I ran out yesterday and I don't go shopping for tomorrow! Virtual will have to do, it's better for me anyway.

  6. cathybrown, your name is in the drawing. Thanks for stopping in. :)

  7. HELEN, been there with the feeling of writing drivel. Occupational hazard.
    The trouble is, if we really think we're writing drivel and we STOP, then those drivel-ish characters keep nudging us and circling (vulture-like) urging us to ... 'maybe try one more time to get this story down...'

  8. Jan, you've put it exactly right. Callie in Over the Edge is going to react so so so differently from Audra from In Too Deep.
    Callie is going to get in people's faces (and by 'people' I mean Seth, though she mouths off to Rafe a couple of times, too, which is crazy fun to watch bossy Rafe back up a step)
    So how Callie is....definitely makes the whole story different.
    How could it NOT?

  9. Thanks for the ice cream Jan and the coffee Helen, now I'm loaded up with cyber sugar and caffeine and have cyber insomnia.
    Which I will now lay awake worrying about.

  10. MELISSA, I had a friend (whom I don't see often) ask me just the other day, "How do you keep coming up with new ideas."
    You know what?????
    She seemed so sincere. So seriously interested.
    I almost slipped up and told her.

    But I controlled myself. I've got a tidy short answer and I know using that is the right thing to do.
    Yes, they ask. And I suppose they're really curious. But I think what they're really curious about is....Oh....more like

    ...GENERALLY...HOW DO YOU KEEP COMING UP WITH IDEAS. Not specifically, how did you get THIS idea...or any idea.

    One is a short answer.
    The other lasts days.
    Guess which one they really want to know about???????

  11. My short answer is usually something like, "Oh, you'd be surprised where I get ideas from."

    Or, "I just sort of ask 'what if' almost as a reflex. And 'what if' is me twisting some event in real life into a story."

    Or I say, "I've finally found a productive use for my insomnia and vivid imagination."

    Or I say, "I was lucky enough to get a book published before someone put me on meds for having voices in my head."

  12. julgretch@yahoo.comAugust 6, 2012 at 1:35 AM

    I read the first part of Over the Edge on the post and loved it. I would love a copy.
    My current WIP is character driven; the idea of balancing character and plot was very helpful. Thanks, Mary.

  13. Hi Mary, Thanks for the red letter edition. I scrolled through quickly after I read it, and saw about as much red as blue so yes, both are in there both are necessary. You have made this very understandable for me.

    If I win this book I will have to buy the other two because I can't stand to read things out of order. So, that would be good. I will read them all someday soon either way.

  14. Hey Mary! Your posts make so much sense to me. Maybe it's the color coding that really helps ; ). I think I may also steal your line..."it's easier to just obey than to try and figure out why" with my kids. That should stump them for a little while. : )
    I totally agree with what you said about plot/character needing a balance. When I think of some of my favorite books I don't just remember the story being great but also the people I grew to love in the story.
    Please put my name in for Over the Edge! I've yet to win an autographed Mary book and I'd still love to...and I'd love to read the book, too. ; ) I've been reading your Montana Marriages books them!

  15. Hi Mary, I would love a copy of your book.

    As for me, living on unpubbed island, eating bananas and drinking coconut milk, I have to say that characters are what (who?) stay with me. They have taught me lessons and become part of my mental lineup of people I either want to be like or run away from.

    As for plot, I've been known to flip to the end if I get impatient. As someone who rushes to fill in the blanks of my pastor's sermons before he gives the answers to the fill-in-the blank outline, I tend to try & figure out the plot right away.

    I'm saying all of this as a reader, of course.

  16. I am reading Over the Edge on my Kindle I would love to have a sign copy. I had to preorder as I could not wait to read Seths story. I hope you are planning Heaths story then you got the girls. I get lost in my books and I tend to visualize them as well.

  17. Oh, man. You're just tempting us to haul off and RAMBLE, aren't you??

    I want to type 20 pages on this but since the comment box is only so big, I'll stick with a few little tidbits.

    I would say write character driven books, but I've learned that doesn't sell well (and something actually has to happen for you to write the synopsis)so I've learned to make my thoughtful, conflicted characters DO SOMETHING.

    Ooooh, gooseflesh. Thinking of my Seeker critique 'way back when'. I think I owe Tina (I think she broke down and admitted it was her) a large percentage of my future earnings for basically begging me to make something happen.

  18. As for my other point, I prefer character drive stories, honestly. I'm more of a 'Bleak House' type reader. But I understand there has to be some action for people to even want to pick up the book.

    That said, I get to read a LOT of MG and YA fiction over here and nothng gets my goat faster than a plat that zooms all over, going 90 mph, and the characters are just along for the ride. Just giving them a quirk or two doesn't make them real. It's a huge trend in Junior Fiction and I hate it.

    Chapters that run 4 pages, explosions, huge reversals or revelations of courble-crossing, etc. is the way most of it is written. I call it 'fluff and twaddle'. Things like 'The Animorphs' or Emily Rodda books read like TV shows. For every one of the books my kids read like that, they have to read something GOOD. I don't care if it's a classic like 'Little Women' or something new like 'Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy'. I don't care if it's old sci-fi like 'Ender's Game' or Madeleine L'engle, etc.

    So, yes, chracter driven all the way. It can be hard to find that kind of lit in adult fiction, and horrendously hard to find it in anything for the younger set.

    As you said, the very best is a mix. :)

    Rant over!

  19. Oh my stars, I was so caught up in Callie's story that I couldn't have cared less what color any darn thing was, I just didn't want it to END!

    YeeeeeeeHaaaaaaaaaw! Connealy, she shorely, purely is a wildcat-tiger-of-a-woman! And that's How the West Was Won, my friends! ;)

    Love it.

    And look at you, actually saying somethin' meanin'ful to the folks today which is GOOD 'cause I'm just makin' fun of the whole lot of 'em on Thursday! This way they got SOMETHING GOOD out of their week in Seekerville! Oy! Well done, mon petite!

    Oh, did I mention that I agree wholeheartedly? A well written book that grabs interest has interwoven plot and characters. One without the other is like when Wile E. Coyote hits the wall and becomes a pancake: flat, flat, flat!

  20. Helen the first chapters of my books are always drivel... But they teach me what I need to know about the characters involved.

    So it's never useless, even if we change/discard it. And I've kicked many an opening chapter to the curb!

  21. Susan Codone, I love seeing you talk here! Good for you!!!!!

    And Stacey... Oh mylanta, let me get my hands on that baby! How precious! How perfect! Now that's plot and character woven together right there!

    And Mary, Connor is a lot like our Xavier... He's ten months old, has a mind of his own, is walking, waving, and bosses everyone around or shrieks at them to get what he wants.

    Rarely is there anything low-key about this little grandson. It's hysterical.

    Mary Cline, you'll love them. Promise. Totally girlfriend-promise, and you know that's never a lie. Unless you wear the same dress I wear and look better in it.


  22. Now I really need this book. I like Ethan there was something about him that I really liked. However I think I like Seth also cos hes interesting.
    I haven't thought if books are plot driven or character driven but it probably explains why some books seem so slow. One I read recently when there was interaction with others it moved along well but when she was on her own it was like reading a boring diary (like mine).
    I am still not reading like I want. its taking around 8 days to read a book.

  23. I am so glad it's not just me. Someone asked me that question once and I was like "Huh? How can it not be both?" If a book doesn't have a plot, I stop reading. If it doesn't have characters I engage with ditto.

    Unless I guess you're talking about some of those super action thriller books where you never discover much about the character because they're too busy saving the world from nuclear attack???

    Love to be in the draw for Over the Edge :)

  24. I "Liked" you on Amazon!

    My favorite Kincaid brother is Rafe-the tyrant. I guess I just love the take charge in control bad boy that he is. I think he has tamed down a little but that's o.k. Actually, I like Ethan too and oh I can't forget Seth. He might be a little mad but I'm hoping that he gets his life straightened out in, Over The Edge.

    Would love to win a copy!


  25. Mary, you're very easy to like, so that click was a no-brainer for me. Also, you're absolutely right about characters and plot being intertwined. How's that to start your week?

  26. julgretch, in the real book, the words are all black and white. Which isn't nearly as fun.

  27. Well, all BLACK really, the pages are white......never mind.

  28. MARY CLINE I jumped back and forth with the colors several times because many of the character revealing sentences are also advancing the plot, so I'm not sure if I even color coordinated it correctly.

  29. Traveling Stacy, Be careful.
    Today you're saying you'll tell the KIDS, 'it's easier to just obey than to try than figure out why.'

    In a few years they'll be saying that to you.

  30. SUSAN, I mostly agree with you. Of course I want a great story but I need characters to fall in love with. But does that make the book Character driven? Or does that just mean the book needs great characters?

  31. Anita, I have Heath's story all set...IN MY HEAD. No one's offered to publish it yet.
    I'm hoping though. He's a bristly kid and I'd like to find him some happiness.

    Next up is a series called Trouble in Texas. A group of men who met in Andersonville prison, where Seth was. The first hero is Callie Kincaid's brother Luke, who comes home to find his ranch stolen, his sister run off and his father dead.

    Luke is looking for revenge, or maybe justice, depends on how mad he is at any given time.

    And then he runs into a half-drowned little red head named (drumroll) Ruthy. He has to save her, then he's in a hurry so he just takes her along to help him start a range war.

  32. Virginia, you love characters, that's never wrong. "They don't sell well" isn't going to be true for you, because your characters will be so great that no one will be able to resist!!!

  33. My daughter, with a three year old, says the same is true of way too many children's books. She thinks they've being written by a computer or something.
    She hangs around the library looking for kids books and is just annoyed at how likely she is to pick a book and find out it's BLAH.

  34. Ruthy, for some reason I could just absolutely SEE little Connor. His fat legs, always getting to his feet and bouncing. A wild glint in his eyes and a lots of smiles, and a lot of screaming.

  35. AUSJENNY, I'm sorry you're still struggling to feel better.
    I've heard someone describe a book as a 'coming of age' story.
    I usually run for the hills.

  36. KARA, when I was writing the blog post and talking about plot driven I realized that those super action thrillers, the ones I could think of ALL have great characters. It's absolutely vital. So if that's lacking, the book can have all the action it wants and still not succeed.

  37. MARY, I LIKED YOU!!! But then I already liked you A LOT!!

    Great post, sweetie, and realllllly appreciate the clear way you laid this out because this question has been bugging me forever. I always thought I was more character-driven than plot driven because I focus on the characters and THEY take me to where the plot ends up whether I like it or not!! But you are SO right -- they are almost interchangeable.


  38. Hi Judy, you like the tyrannical type, huh?
    Might as well.
    Men seemed prone to being that type.

  39. Thanks for the LIKE Mia. I have no idea what it's for or what it means, but it's supposed to be good.

    I spend far too much of my life scrambling to catch up with little understanding of how I got behind and how the current 'catching up' is supposed to make things better.


  40. Bullets flying. Yep, it's a Mary Connealy bestseller.

    I love your books because every word matters. Every word has a reason to be there whether you promote the plot or develop the characters.

    I had to giggle when you explained why Connor was highlighted in green. See? You've got to watch every word because somewhere later in the book, the reader is guarenteed to have a V-8 moment, LOL!

    I love it!

  41. Great post Mary, Love the discussion.

    And I'm enjoying the heck out of the plot and the characters in Over the Edge.

    Keep on writing girlfriend. Your stories are terrific.

  42. Oh, and this part just summed up the entire reason for the book being in existance:

    "You need to tell a story that doesn’t survive without vibrant characters. And you need characters who are twisted and turned and pummeled by the plot of your story but who twist and turn the story because of who they are."

    Those are words every writer should have branded on their hearts.

  43. Excellent post, Mary! I loved the opening of Over the Edge!! Your women are STRONG!!!!!!!

    I "liked" you on Amazon. Must remember to do that for each other, even if we don't understand what we're doing. :-)May be related to our placement in search engines, but I could be wrong.

    What's for breakfast?


  44. Mary, I just liked your Amazon page. You know I love your author page.

    Could I get extra credit for telling you I am stockpiling your books on my Kindle to go with me to Switzerland?

    When I took my research trip up to DC, I found myself focusing on all the things that could happen in the plot. But ultimately what I got out of the trip was a better handle on my hero's character and motivation. Yup, they are intertwined.

    Thanks, as always, for making me think!

    Peace, Julie

  45. Congratulations Mary on the new release! Whoo! Hoo! Sure would love to win a copy. I'm a subscriber to your newsletter already. Does that mean I get two chances to win? :)

    I agree that we need to be both plot and character driven. When I write I have an idea where I'll end up, but my characters tend to change my original plot along the way...thinking they have a mind of their own. :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  46. Okay, Mary, I created 546 user accounts on Amazon and liked you 546 times.

    Okay, I'm joking, but I did the American thing and voted Like once.

  47. Mary, you are officially "liked."

    Readers aren't interested in boring plots. Myself included. I've always considered my works character driven because the plot is affected by how the characters react to conflict.

    I've been known to put down books that force characters to act a certain way simple because the plot demands it.

    Enter me. I haven't read Over The Edge yet. I couldn't imagine a woman strong enough to bring crazy Seth back to reality but now that I've met Callie I can't wait to read their story.

  48. I also agree with you, Mary. Plot and characters should be interwoven with each other to the point that neither aspect of the story dominates the other.

    From some people I've talked with creating the plot seems easier than developing the characters and vice versa. In the end though, both being well developed seem necessary for a story to stick with readers after they read, "The End."

    BTW, I "Liked" you on Amazon. :) And, I'd love to be put in the drawing for your book. :)

  49. Good morning Mary, I love to read your books and have read 1&2 in this series, so you had better give that #3 book to me so I can finish up the series...
    I sometimes wonder how you come up with all these type stories and then look back to where you live and your wonderful husband who supports follows.
    I am here in Ga waiting with baited breath for this next story of Seth and Callie--what in the world is "baited breath" I know I have heard that somewhere..
    Paula O(

  50. I enjoyed reading about character/plot. I agree with everything you said about the two subjects. My opinion is that if I'm not made to care about the characters I really don't care what happens to them. But on the other hand if I'm made to care about them I still don't want to read about their boring everyday lives if there is no plot.

    I did not know you could like someone on Amazon, until now. I've liked you and I believe I've already signed up for your newsletter (just haven't received one yet).

  51. HEY!!!!!!!! I went over 100 LIKES on Amazon.
    I'm not sure what it means but it seems really, really good.
    And isn't perception the whole point? I'm living in my own fantasy world so why not decide it's a really, really good thing.

  52. I agree, Mary. Character and plot are so interwined they're inseparable.

    I especially like a story with a good plot that doesn't drag, but the characters need to be interesting, too.

    I've read a few romances with no external plot to speak of. They're usually not my favorites.

  53. Okay, this is weird. I started checking my Seeker buddies and found out I hadn't 'liked' any of them. Except I know I did. Maybe two weeks ago. It's possible I missed someone, but NONE of them were 'liked'. So, can a person come 'unliked'?
    If so do you lose the count? Or can you 're-like' yourself and it counts as a NEW like.
    If that's true. I need to just go LIKE people every few months forever.
    And yes, this could possibly be LESS important, but I don't see how.

  54. Julie Hilton Steele, you're going to SWITZERLAND?
    Wow, girl.
    I'm debating whether to drive to town to buy chapstick. Yes, my lips are chapped, but then it's a fairly long drive so I don't want to rush into anything.

  55. Jodie YES all newsletter subscribers are in the drawing. NOT just new subscribers. How would that be fair, huh?

  56. Susan THAT'S THE SPIRIT!!!!!!!
    Even just thinking about it is encouraging for me. LOL

  57. It's always so fun to experience your writing process, Mary! I suppose my tales must be character driven, since they usually show up in my mind before a plot does. I've tried fitting characters to a plot and that doesn't work at all.

    Love this cover--but then I really love folks who are just a bit off kilter.

    You are liked. Officially. It is sometimes hard to remember to get that liking done. But know it does feel good to see likes on your page. :)

  58. BRIDGETT it is so vitally important to know your characters well enough to understand how they'd react to a given situation.
    You HAVE to be true to that character. Toward the end of the book Callie is in danger and she HAS to slow down the people who are dragging her into the cavern and she falls and pretends she's twisted her ankle.
    All the words she's saying out loud are offset by her inner thoughts about how revolting it is to act like such a weakling.
    She's whining aloud at the same time she's looking for a chance to crack someone over the head with a rock.

  59. Hi Jeanne T. I like the way you've put it. Do you see what I mean about things just being HARD to put into words? It's just all very complex and difficult to explain. That's one of the reasons I think the best way to study writing is to read great fiction.

    You can learn more from watching someone do it really well than you can from having someone EXPLAIN it really well.

  60. POL I'm not positive but I think bated breath has something to do with fishing.

    So maybe if your breath smells like WORMS?????

    Again, not sure.

  61. DONNA, your comment may qualify as you NAGGING me about that newsletter.

    I'm TRYING. I swear I'm going to get one out.


    But I can't do it today, now can I? Not when I've asked new people to sign up?

    That would be rude.

    So, think of the lack of a newsletter as me just giving and giving and giving.

  62. Thanks lizzie. I went and liked you back.

    I've just spend a long time liking people. If possibly I did that in my real like as opposed to clicking away on Amazon, I might not be quite such a loner. :(

  63. Mary, I love your books! They are a bright spot in my day/life. Would love a autographed copy.

  64. Oh, yay, so glad we'll have some continuing characters from Kincaid Brides in your next series! I wondered if we'd hear more about Callie's brother since I knew you were writing about Andersonville.

    And I TOTALLY agree about how you really can't separate character and plot. A good story needs both.

    Which is why I think I just couldn't get into the first Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. There was too much action and not enough character development for my tastes.

    On the other hand, I LOVE the Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock series! Far more depth. If I can't care about the characters, I really have trouble caring about their story.

  65. Hi Jennifer S. You are in the drawing!

  66. Myra, the Sherlock Holmes movie is a great example. It's just so RELENTLESSLY action packed and yet Sherlock Holmes is one of the great, classic enduring characters in all of fiction.
    And what I've NEVER thought of him is that he's a tough, action hero. It's his THINKING that is so important.
    I liked the action. I liked the steam punk. It was all beautifully done. But it was just everything. When they would pause to dwell on Holmes (keeping in mind I saw this ONCE years ago) it was weird. Holmes seemed more like a madman (and I'm sure there were degrees of that in the novel-but not THIS much) than a cerebral genius.

  67. Hi Mary:

    I’ve just spent the last 45 minutes liking you! There is a like button on every book! If there had been one more book, I wouldn’t have liked you any more!

    BTW: When you ‘like’ someone or some book, Amazon uses that information to set affinity factors: e.g., “If you liked “Out of Control” you’ll also like these books: a, b, c.” So when you like someone you are helping sell other authors’ books. So if you like Audra, you will help sell Tina’s books. What goes around, comes around.

    Everyone knows the difference between a plot driven story and a character driven story – that is, until they try to explain it. Then they get too fancy and wind up getting lost in the weeds.

    The key word here is ‘driven’: that’s what drives the story – what the engine of the story really is. It’s not how many words or scenes one side gets in the story. It’s not about plotters and pantsers. Either method can produce either type of story.

    Ask this question: “If there is a conflict, which side will usually win?” In a plot driven story, the plot will usually win. In a character driven story, the character will often win.

    In a mystery the plot usually drives the story as the reader tries to solve the puzzle and the author tries to fool the reader while still playing fair. It is easy to change characters as needed and still tell the same story in a plot driven mystery. (You can have a fat detective, bald detective, novel writing detectivette, lollypop sucking detective, cat loving detective, orchid growing detective – you name it -- it’s really about ‘who done it’. )

    In a romance the characters usually drive the story. The reader is guaranteed a happy ending -- so the story is really about how these two characters are going to fall in love. You can change the plot all over the place and the couple can still fall in love in the same way.

    I think that “The Sweetest Gift” was actually plot driven because it was based on a classic story and very famous plot twist. The characters had to meet the needs of that plot. I think the Kincaid series is very character driven. I believe the same story could be told with many different plots.

    I often find that Romantic Suspense stories shortchange the romance by being way too plot driven. Often there is not enough time to build a believable foundation for the characters falling in love. This is why in many of these stories, the hero and heroine have known each other in the past.

    Since I read romances to study the process of falling in love, I read very few Romantic Suspense novels. The few I do read hold other interests for me such as taking place on an Army base.

    What drives your story? What is easier to change and keep the same story? Characters or plot?

    As for me, I like to think I write ‘situation-driven’ stories. I try to think of a series of very funny or interesting situations and then craft them in whatever way is needed to create the most enjoyable reading experience. This has great potential and would really work well if I had more talent.


    P.S. It’s my wife’s birthday today so I am standing by while she makes up her mind what she wants to do special today. It’s her day. She calls all the shots. Actually, that’s no different than any other day. Are there ‘wife-driven’ stories?

    P.P.S. She just called. It starts with the movies at noon. Got to go.

  68. Mary, you nailed it. Holmes was too insanely mad in the Downey movie. I couldn't relate to or care about him at all.

    The Masterpiece Sherlock seems so much more human, in a brilliantly tortured kind of way. The Sherlock and Watson characters play off each other perfectly, and I care about them both.

  69. Happy birthday to your wife, Vince! Have fun at the movies. What are you going to see?

  70. Vince, you know, I read all those Cat Who books. I can only remember the man and his cat.
    The plot is forgotten.
    So does that mean it's character driven?

    btw this sentence you wrote>>>>> Everyone knows the difference between a plot driven story and a character driven story – that is, until they try to explain it. Then they get too fancy and wind up getting lost in the weeds.
    I might be lost in the weeds because I still think they're inseparable.

  71. Vince what you say about some romantic suspense is so true. A great example of a plot that takes up so much space there's barely room for the romance.
    My books have suspense elements always and it's tricky because there's so much story to tell.

    Have a great day.

  73. Love your blog today, Mary, and the excerpt from your book! Always so fun to read a Connealy story...and you ALWAYS have a bang-up beginning. This one especially so!

    I remember an author I read years and years ago. I won't mention HIS name. But his books were plot driven. At the time, I thought he was great. Until I started to read romance. Then I realized his stories were linear--all plot/action with no character arc.

    Vince, you're right. It's hard to build a romance and suspense when the story unfolds over a short period of time.

    Happy Birthday to your dear wife, Vince. Enjoy the movie! A chick flick perhaps?

  74. wow. with this many comments, my chances are pretty slim, but i'll still give it a try. anything for a signed Mary Connealy book. my head is too foggy to comment on plot or character, but i can still tell you that Ethan is my favorite, or maybe rather, Ethan's story is my favorite. i love the way he's so clueless about marriage and that little ole Audra has to show him.

  75. Ethan's only your favorite because you haven't read Seth yet. Give him a chance. :)

  76. Awesome post, Mary!! I completely agree and loved your color breakdown. Thank you!

  77. I have to tell everyone I loved Over the Edge. It's fun, fast and feisty Callie is great. My favorite brother was Seth but I'm now pulling for HEATH.

    My latest ms is character driven but plot and character are very hard to separate. can't have one without the other.

    Jewell Tweedt
    Faith of the Heart
    $1.99 on Kindle (I'm shameless)

  78. I liked you! I really liked you! ;)

    Great post Mary on a topic that I've come to terms with in the past after being rejected for a 'story driven' manuscript. Your blue, red, green example speaks to me. Can't wait to read your next.

    But first, back to edits!

  79. After reading Vince's post, I have a new theory on this. (Well new to me at least). For a romance, you can dislike (or even be bored by the plot) but if the characters grab you, the book is successful. By contrast, because it's a romance, even if the plot is amazing, the book will fail if the characters don't resonate in some way with the reader.

    I'm thinking of a book I read recently. There was a plot. It was not very exciting or novel, but it was there. Ho hum. Predictable.

    But the characters were people I could really identify with and want the best for. So even though the plot was lacking, I kept reading the story to be certain they got their happily-ever-after. It wasn't a romance so there was no guarantee of that.

    Okay, I'm rambling here. To be concise - I think they are inextricably connected, but it is more important in a romance for the characters to be done well.

    Likewise, if you have a thriller, the characters are important, but the plot is critical.

    Perhaps that is what separates truly gifted authors. They do both extremely well.

    PS - I had already liked you on Amazon. I checked and it still says I do. (You and 109 others like...)

  80. Hi Mary,
    Your post is so freeing today. Thanks!

    I liked you at Amazon & tweeted for others to Like you too.

    Hope it helps.

    Jackie L.

  81. Thank you for putting my mind at ease. This character vs plot driven stuff always baffled me. I could never pin point which category my stories fit in and I believe it's because they both go together.

    I liked you a long time ago on facebook and signed up for your newsletter as well as followed you all over the internet for the past two weeks. (don't be afraid all I wants a copy of the book):)

  82. Loved this, Mary. You always make me laugh. And that's very appreciated on a Monday when I forgot to set the alarm clock and started the day scrambling and late. Blech!

    Maybe the reason why I haven't been able to figure out whether my stories are plot or character driven (besides the fact that I'm such a newbie writer) is that my stories are both. Hey. A girl can dream, right?

    Over the Edge is in my Amazon cart, but I haven't hit check out yet, because I had a couple of other things to purchase before next paycheck. Can't wait to read about Callie and Seth. One of my sisters is named Callie and from the excerpt, I have a feeling I'm going to see a lot of similarities between the two Callies. :-)

    I had already liked you on Amazon, but I went ahead and liked the individual books that I hadn't already. And I think I managed to get signed up for the newsletter.

  83. Mary Curry, I think there's a lot of truth in that. Romance, well, I want a great plot, too. But loving the heroine and hero is so fundamental to making a romance work.

  84. Jamie, if you don't win, and don't want to buy the book, go harrass (politely) your local library. Ask them to carry it.
    If they won't (the big MEANIES!) then ask if you can get it through inter-library loan. Maybe library systems have that and most are free though some charge a dollar or two.

  85. Wow, Clari, you've got a sister in law who's been involved in a shoot out.

  86. Susan Codone, 546! That totally made me sit up and laugh!

    And I liked you already on Amazon... But I swear... Does it matter? Someone says it does. But does it really? Or is this going to be a myspace thing in a few months??

    But it probably does matetr because just last night I was buying a book there and read the reviews. And this morning someone wrote somewhere that Amazon reviews don't matter. Um, apparently they matter to me.

    Not the crazy ones. Just the normal people.

  87. VINCE!!!!

    I just think you're awesome. And very talented. But mostly awesome for letting your wife call all the shots, all the time.

    Movies at noon!!! She sounds like my kind of gal!

    Happy birthday to Vince's wife!

  88. Mary, yup. My sis has been involved in a shoot out -- also called shooting competitions. :-)

  89. You're right about plot and character being inseparable. I know people will always comment on how some thriller novels and tv shows (such as police procedurals) focus more on plot, but I find myself yearning to know more about the characters when I read or see that kind of media.

    Reading your book now!

  90. I think you're right, Mary. Plot and character are intertwined, no matter the genre. I have to empathize with the characters, to care enough to invest time to read about them. But then, even if I care about the characters, which can happen in part by way of the plot, something has to happen to also pique my interest in this particular story about those characters. Plot and character, intertwined.

  91. Mary, that sure is a breath-taking scene! Made my heart pound!

    I think I agree about plot and character. Though I have to admit character comes easier for me. I do the internal angst naturally but have more problem coming up with an external plot.

    Great post!!

  92. if Vince says they matter, then they do. He is always right.

  93. Hi Brandi. i hope you enjoy the book. We all want charming characters we can love (or hate) don't we?

  94. Clari, are we talking blue rocks? Skeet shooting? Nothing that shoots back, right?

  95. I'll add here that, with the exception of her reference to saving ammunition for when she finally catches up with that worthless Seth Kincaid, there is ZERO backstory in that opening.
    Well, I mention her father's ranch in Texas in a half a sentence.
    But this is NOT the time for backstory.

  96. Patricia, making the reader care. That's what it's all about. Characters you care about in the midst of something that makes you root for them.
    That's plot and character intertwined

  97. Stupid blogger, eating my comment.

    Hello, Mary! My current WIP started as character-driven (because I imagined them first, then built a framework for their story) but now the plot is so ingrained in my characters that I think seperating the two would be painful for all involved. Like seperating Siamese twins, only less blood and longer hours. Or maybe more blood (mine).

    I just finished rereading The Hobbit, and was thinking that the plot and character are meant to go together. Can you imagine Bilbo on any other adventure with those dwarves? Or Frodo hanging out in the Shire without the influence of the Ring? Bravo, Mr. Tolkien.

    Please include me in your drawing, as Callie's story sounds like a lot of fun!

  98. Mary, no. Nothing that shoots back. My siblings and I have done pistol competions and rifle competions over the years and someday want to try the cowboy shoots. But the only incoming fire we've ever experienced is when we've pulled out the marshmallow guns and then it's an all out war. :-)

  99. I've always thought of myself as a character-driven writer because I usually have to figure out the 'What' of the story based on the 'Who.' It's the external goal that's hardest for me, because I think in terms of internal, I guess. But I see what you mean about 2 sides of the same coin...

    I've read *many* of your books and always love the adrenaline ride of the opening scene. :) Haven't picked up any of the Kinkaid series, though, and I'd love to win a copy! Please throw my name in the hat, and best wishes with this book's success!


  100. Well - I am better at developing characters than plots so character driven stories are easier but that doesn't mean I can ignore plots. It just makes me envious of authors like Mary who seem to effortlessly combine the two. I like you (on Amazon) and otherwise...

  101. OK - off the subject but I gotta ask. The guy on the cover of the Kincaid books - is he real or somebody's drawing? And is it 3 guys or one? I know they're supposed to be brothers and all but they sure do look alike. Not that I'm complaining - handsome fellow!

  102. Wonderful food for thought, Mary. I've often wondered why/how people separate "character driven" and "plot driven" into two categories and I end up with a big headache. :) I agree, the memorable stories have an inseparable balance of the two.

    I forget the plot-driven ones too. One of the coolest westerns I'll probably never reread, because I can't remember the characters' or author's names or the book title. I remember a drifter, his brother, a Mexican woman, a baby, a mule, and the bad guys who try to steal her land and fell to their comeuppance after a gunfight high in a sawmill, and this big gush of water from the log flume, but that's pretty much it. lol.

    Very excited about Seth's story! He may be my favorite yet. I don't know though. Ethan's story may still have my vote. :) I've never read a hero with his personality and it's quite endearing. :)

  103. Mary I am doing so much better only at night I am in bed so early last night soon after 8 and I am to tired to read. its frustrating. I am getting stronger. Its just by 5pm I am so tired.
    someone asked what I did yesterday to tire me out. I said Dishes.

  104. I agree that both plot and characters are important, otherwise the story would be rather boring.
    My favorite Kincaid brother (at least so far) is Rafe, for a shallow reason. I think he's the most handsome!
    I'm pretty sure I'm subscribed to your newsletter already and I "liked" your Amazon page awhile back.
    I'd love to have a chance to win Over the Edge. Thanks.


  105. I'm so looking forward to reading this book! I love your writing style! I'd love to win it.

    Clp1777(at) aol(dot)com

  106. I can't wait to see how you get a romance out of crazy Seth!

  107. alright Mary I cannot let you think I have wormy breath so looked this up on internet and this is what I found:

    •"What's the basis of bated, which we never hear in the present tense? It is a clip of abate, from the Old French abattre, 'to beat down,' and now it means 'to moderate, subside, reduce, ebb.' In connection with breathing, it means 'shorten' or 'hold.' When you abate your breath, you hold it in anticipation of some breathtaking event.

    "The coiner was Shakespeare in his 1596 Merchant of Venice, in which Shylock says to Antonio, 'Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,/With bated breath and whispering humbleness,/Say this:/Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last?

    Now if it was good enough for shakespeare well.....
    I think I may curtail my use of that phrase tho.
    Paula O

  108. Mary!
    I never thought of it this way... I like the post, thanks.


  109. And I will go check out your Amazon page!

    Go Mary Connealy!

  110. I don't know what it is about you and heroines with guns, but those are my favorites of your heroines.

    And, when I read Out of Control, the idea that Seth had a wife somewhere never would have occurred to me. I love the concept that he doesn't know she exists.

    For some reason, people always say that I'm plot-driven.

  111. The explanation sure makes sense, Mary. The color coding reinforced it. My stories tend to be more plot driven. But I recognize the need to create those three dimensional characters to move the plot along. Still working toward that healthy balance you speak of.
    Love to win a copy of Over the Edge. Thank you. Wonderful, easy to understand post, Mary.

  112. Can't wait to read your latest!

  113. pol, I knew instantly you were quoting Shakespeare (go ahead and believe that, okay?)


  114. Mary, I went back and read my comment. lol!

    Your plots are not boring!!!!!! I love all your books. And I can't wait to read Out of Control.

  115. The brothers on the cover do look alike but if you go look at the trailers, which are shot with the real cover models, they're very clearly NOT the same. Tall, dark and handsome, though.
    It's so REQUIRED that I need to get a blond or red headed hero (like Red Dawson in Montana Rose, or Daniel Reeves in Calico Canyon) just to mix things up.

  116. Walt, these are my favorite heroines, to write. IN fact I love doing them so much I have to force myself to try and different kind of woman.

    Sort of like the Tall, Dark and Handsome thing with the heroes.

  117. Both are important, most definitely.

    natashasiegrist at hotmail dot com

  118. Which Kincaid brother is my favorite?

    Rafe, of course.

    Well ... or maybe Ethan.

    But then I like Seth so much.

    Okay. I've made up my mind. Ethan. No, Seth. No, Rafe.

    The problem is, one brother isn't who he is if there aren't the other brothers. They're inseparable -- kind of like plot and character :-)

    Nancy C

  119. I agree that for a reader it is meaningless. While I think that characters are more important in romance the plot is essential. I think that writing a book is a little like vaulting in gymnastics. ( Watched the Olympics last night so this example came to me while seeing US girl do one great run and one terrible one.)
    You have to have momentum and you have to pace it right or you will land on your face. You can have great characters but if you lose sight of the ground or in writing terms, end, you will fall. ( or get bad reviews on Amazon.)
    This is something I have a big problem with. I have read so many books that started great and had a bad ending or vice versa. But the result is the same in the readers mind.

  120. Thank you so much! I would love to be entered into the drawing.

  121. Hi All:

    The birthday is just winding up. It’s after midnight. The movie was the Avengers. For some reason Linda’s church Sunday school used film clips of the Ironman for some lessons. She also loves Robert Downey, Jr. Linda had a pedicure and manicure and then a nice dinner and then presents and cake at her parent’s house. Linda thanks all who wished her a Happy Birthday.

    I know it’s late but I’ll answer a few questions:

    Mary said:

    ”Vince, you know, I read all those Cat Who books. I can only remember the man and his cat.
    The plot is forgotten.
    So does that mean it's character driven?”

    No. It does not mean that at all. What you remember is what was memorable and not necessarily what was driving the story. Being people ourselves, we are very likely to remember people rather than plots. The cat solves mysteries. How a cat is going to do it, is the driver of the story. The rest of the stuff is entertainment. Besides there are over twenty plus plots but the cat and the man are mostly the same in each story. (As far as I remember: there are two cats.)

    Also Mary said:

    “I might be lost in the weeds because I still think they're inseparable.”

    Yes, but there is no conflict here. The plot and the characters could be inseparable and the story still be either plot driven or character driven. These are not mutually exclusive. An engine can drive a luxury car and the two can be inseparable, as one needs the other to function, but the engine still drives the car.

    I think what drives the story is a narrow concept. It’s not what is most memorable; it’s not about inseparability; it’s not about which approach has the most 'face' time; it's not even about what is most important in the story: plot or characters. It’s just about whether the characters are outside the car pushing it or inside the car being driven by the engine.

    BUT THEN, I’m just doing this analysis as if it were philosophy. Another philosopher could come along and prove that I’m all wet. Who knows? I just do what I can and hope it helps in some way. Besides it’s fun and it is what I do.


  122. Very interesting thank you.


  123. i am not a writer, Mary as i know there are so many awesome authors out there. i love novels that are both character and action driven, but it is characters i connect with. i can become quite emotional, and that includes anger at some of the characters and their actions. i would be honored to win Over The Edge, Mary. Thanks for the opportunity!


  124. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for the COLORFUL article today. I'm thinkin' To Kill A Mockingbird. Love Jem....would read on and on about her....regardless of plot? Well, maybe not so much. The plot there KILLS a person. Keeps you up nights (If you can stop reading to try to sleep.) Together, what a dynamic, stick-with-you-forever story.

    So I'm sayin'....I agree w/you, it takes 2 to tango.

    And hope I get to meet you soon.


    Gail Kittleson

  125. I want you to know, Ms.C, I read this TWICE,but didn't make it back to comment.


    Painful. But excellent.

  126. I agree that plot driven makes a storyline really interesting!Love your books!

  127. Great Giveaway! Thanks for the chance to win!

  128. I loved this post. :)

    And I LIKED you.

    And I signed up for the newsletter. So, cool!

  129. Oh, I would like this one!
    Please enter me in your draw.