Monday, June 6, 2016

This Free Prequel Novella Thing

It seems like it's taken forever but I am finally launching a new series.

The Cimarron Legacy Series begins with a FREE prequel novella which costs no money and is also very affordable at the reasonable price of $ZERO. The Boden Birthright.
It's been up on Seekerville a whole lotta times, practically every Weekend Edition for about three months so any one who wants a copy no doubt has one by now.

It's FREE after all. No reason to suppress the slightest urge to 'buy' it.

I guess what I'm thinking about as I write is whether it's a good idea. Not to have it be free (did I mention that?) but I am not sure I picked the right 'prequel' moment to start the book.

Free on Kindle  Free on Nook
For The Boden Birthright, I went way way way back to the parents love story, then for No Way Up, Book #1 of the Cimarron Legacy--their daughter falls in love with, of all people, Heath Kincaid.

That's the 'surprise' brother from the Kincaid Brides series.
I've been looking for a home for Heath's story for a long time.
Does anyone know much about the prequel novella world? Do you read them? Should I have made the story more of a cliffhanger? After all it came out only about six weeks before the first book so it's not like you'd have that long to wait.

Instead I backed mine up about 20 years, I wrote the parents' love story, and a lingering problem from those days appears in the book.

The Boden Birthright story pretty much stands alone. Except my plan was to I introduce some fun characters you'd want to know more about.

I guess what I'd like to talk about today is the difference between Character Driven and Plot Driven books. It's an interest of mine because of this business I've involved myself in, in going back to old characters, children in earlier books, having them grow up and have love stories. Most of my Seeker novellas are like that. And now this prequel novella is sort of like that, because I wrote all of book #1 and part of book #2, Long Time Gone, before I wrote the prequel.

Is that fun or am I just being a self-indulgent twit?

Or maybe I should MOVE ON!

To me this is fun, visiting old characters, seeing what's up with them. But it's a different kind of writing.

I think of myself as a story teller.

That's first and foremost.

I think of a story I want to tell and launch into it and the characters sort of form out of the primordial ooze of the world that's being created.

Buy at Amazon  Buy at Barnes & Noble

But you can't do that if you're using already created characters. The characters are there first. They already have a personality (well, some don't if they were little babies--in two instances unborn).

I guess what I wonder is, does this change an author to go character first?

You know the old plot driven/character driven question. Which are you?

I've been asked that question and my answer is something like, "That's a stupid question."

(Okay, I'm a little more tactful than that).

But I think it's one of those questions authors get asked that honestly don't have a real answer. Because plot is...yes, the story you're trying to tell, but the characters in that story influence the plot with their behavior to an extent that the characters are driving it.

But it was still a plot first.

But all you've got to do is look at Bailey Wilde to see how different that story would be if say...Kylie Wilde was the hero. Different people, their world is all different because they are different.

Anyway, it's one of those questions that people ask that are just hard to exactly put into words, which is why I say you can't have one without the other, but fundamentally I consider myself a storyteller.

But these novellas...I'm just not sure. I might be creating the story to work with characters that already exist, in which case I guess they are character driven.

So my novella prequel which case I forgot to mention it...FREE well, I created those little kids in that prequel and I already knew who they were going to be when they grew up.

Preorder Now
So maybe these stories in this new series are character driven. But can a story be character driven if there's a lot of shooting? Surely that's an overwhelming PLOT?

Any thoughts? Are your books plot driven or character driven?

Do you know what that means?

Can you explain it to me?

To get your name in a drawing for a $15 gift card from Amazon tell me if your current wip is plot driven or character driven and why.

I would be honored if you'd use it to buy Book #1 of the Cimarron Legacy 'No Way Up'

Mary "The Storyteller" Connealy

And...this is fun
Book #2 of the Cimarron Legacy is now available for pre-order
Long Time Gone

Here are blurbs for the prequel and books #1 and #2. Info about Book #3, Too Far Down coming soon.

The Boden Birthright
A city slicker on the run from a powerful family that wants his son.
A beautiful ranch woman who wants the boy and may have to take the father to get him.
A little boy who needs a home

No Way Up
When Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Badly injured, Chance demands that his will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.

Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don't live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.

Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath's desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds.

Long Time Gone
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole's shooting, Justin can't deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant Angelique DuPree help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.
The trouble is Justin sort of saved Angelique's life (well probably not really, she'd have lived, but still... he caught her when she fainted and carried her around for a while) So now he can't quite forget how perfect she felt in his arms. And the bad part of that is, finally a woman had come to the Cimarron Ranch who is perfect for....his big brother Cole.


  1. Mary, I think I tend towards character driven plotting. I think it's because I have such a hard time with external conflict. I tend to start from all the internal angst. The characters', not mine. LOL

  2. So do you know what it means?

    Can you think of examples?

    Plot driven, sure, plenty of examples. Like all the Jack Reacher books, except are they REALLY plot driven or is Reacher such a strong character that he's the focus.

    Character driven....hmmmmm It reminds me of an old joke.

    'They new Sylvester Stallone movie releases this week. What do you think it's about? I suspect it's a quiet coming of age story about an Amish teenager and his first love."

    That's a joke because we ALL know what Stallone's movies will be about. So is Rambo Plot driven or Character driven. I think Character driven probably.

    I'm giving myself a head ache.

  3. No I do NOT have a headache, rather, I believe I'm proving my point that the two ... plot and character ... are inseparable.

  4. First, I believe I should get chocolate. Your post was in draft and I set it to publish.

    I write character driven stories. I don't need no stinkin' plot.


  5. Nora Roberts writes character driven stories. Can you remember a single plot? No. You are to busy being the heroines in her book and being courted by the hero. Janet Evanovich as well.

    Come on. Lee Child. I sure don't read his books for his descriptions of Nebraska and Phoenix. I read for Jack Reacher. I am willing to overlook this British man's poor attempts at describing our country in his "suspend my disbelief and IQ plots" because I love Jack.

    Give me an amazing character and all I ask is for a passable plot and you got me. I require so little.

  6. Now Tina has me scared, but I'll say it anyway, mine are plot driven.

    I typically come up with a plot and then write my story.

    Could this be why I have one published novella and you lovely ladies are multi-published and award winning?

    I may need to rethink a few things...

  7. I love character driven stories. The plot is important but if the characters aren't strong and believable, the plot really doesn't progress as well as it should.

    Cindy W.

  8. Definitely a character driven storyteller. I STRUGGLE to come up with a plot.

    This last one I have to use a secondary character from a previous book(the only one I could use because everyone else in the last book was already married, a villain, or a Prostitute!), I created like FOUR different heroes to go along with her and tried to dig around in the dirt looking for plots....I sometimes wish I wrote a different genre, mystery or suspense or thriller where I think plot comes first. Saving the world or trying to save yourself from getting shot would be much easier than the plots I have to come up with for my mail order bride stuck in the middle of nowhere Kansas! I'm getting better, but man it's hard.

    I don't get plots first. I get two opposite h/hs and a meet cute, and possibly a plot twist and/or an ending that's all romantic. But I have to find the plot between that.

  9. Did you say "free," Mary? :) Thank you!
    I'm in Missy's camp. My character and his/her internal issues are where I start and from there, the plot unfolds.
    Am I reading this did say "FREE?"

  10. Good morning, Seekerville.

    Thanks for the FREE novella, Mary. I honestly don't know if I "bought" it yet (but I will). The past 6 months have been such an insanely busy blur that I know I didn't read it yet (but I will!).

    Melissa brought up suspense being plot-driven which is fun since I write suspense and I had been reading this post and debating if I wrote plot-driven or character-driven. I think in my case, they are character-driven, because the characters determine how they handle being shot at, kidnapped, on the run for their lives. The story I' wrapping up now is very much character-driven because of her reaction to something she witnesses. Another person would have reacted differently, thus setting off a whole different story. Suspense makes it easy to determine what the plot is though cause all these bad things keep happening. The challenge is making them be different bad things.

    Bet that was no help at all. Mary. I'd go for - your books are great so who cares.

    Happy Monday.

  11. I tend towards plot driven writing. But developing that character is something I need to work on!

    Thanks for the giveaway!!!!!

  12. Okay -- so I've actually been thinking about the whole plot vs character driven novel for awhile now. I've been so confused over the differences and when I read a book I'm thinking, okay is this character or plot driven? And my layman's conclusion is that if a story is worth reading it's character driven because without a reader connection to them the most enthralling plot would fall flat. And really, a plot is only a plot once the characters start messing with it.

    Re novellas prequel or otherwise. Gasp. I don't read many. Largely because they are ebooks and I have to read them on my laptop and I am very limited with how long I can spend at the computer. So I appreciate it when an author who is creating a prequel doesn't make it an integral part of the series to the point where if a reader skips it she'll be lost when she picks up the first book.

  13. Your books are great! Winning an Amazon giftcard would also be great.

  14. I started writing plot driven stories and over the years I've discovered character driven stories are the 'right way.' Ha! After I learned that and really absorbed this, I focused more on my couple and their relationship, but I always had plot in mind. So if it sounds like I'm confused, I probably am.

    Speaking of confused, now how much is your novella?

  15. I love everything you write, Mary, and dont give much thought to what's driving it. But isn't that your ultimate goal? Get the reader so wrapped up in what she's reading there's no analyzing going on? You've accomplished that! Looking forward to No Way Up.

  16. Hi Mary:

    I could write a 100-page report on the marketing uses of novellas but I rather just give what I believe to be the most important consideration:

    If you write a prequel novella, whether it is free or priced at a nominal amount, it has to be an example of your best work. It has to be like a free sample of food given out at Sam's. Readers will judge your whole book series by the novella. That a novella was free is no excuse for it being anything less than an author's best work.


  17. Sorry, Tina. And thank you. You must've been right on the ball (like that's a surprise).
    I came by a half hour after it posted and it was up so I never noticed.
    You are a good person, Tina!
    I'll get the chocolate in the mail.

  18. Well that's true of Jack Reacher.
    I suppose.
    And Lee Child's book set in Nebraska was pretty silly so maybe that's true of every book setting and plot.

    But Reacher carries us through.

    Okay, maybe I write character driven books, too. But really? Then what IS a plot driven book?

    All these book characters with recurring stories I love are all character driven then? I just finished the latest C.J. Box and Nevada Barr and I love Michael Connelly.
    That's Joe Picket and Anna Pigeon and Harry Bosch. I guess I read them for to see what those characters are up to next.

  19. Terri, I'm scared too.
    I maintain the two are inseparable. Despite my fear.

    We'll see what others say.

  20. I'm back. Don't ask.
    I am a strong fan of sequels, prequels and spin-offs (unless it's "Joanie Loves Chachi"). Every character has a story.
    I am character-driven but I find with historicals, the plots usually follow. I do a lot with the Oregon Trail, and if you get a character on the Trail, there will be a plot, just in how that particular person copes and bumps up against the challenges. Put two people in opposition to each other, and you've got a story. Look at Jane Kirkpatrick, she is constantly mining the Trail and no two stories are alike. I also do a series in New York City after the First World War, and again, if you've got a character you're good to go because everyone was affected by the war, the immigrant experience and a tremendous time of social change.
    Thanks for a good post, Mary.
    Kathy Bailey

  21. Hi Mary & Tina:

    I think all fiction is 'situational' driven. The pantser thinks of an interesting 'what if' situation and then starts writing to find out how the hero and heroine get out of it. Sometimes this requires a lot of character development and sometimes the plot is more important (like in complicated mysteries.)

    A plotter does the same 'what if' exercise but instead of immediately writing the story, the plotter writes the plot outline first. Either way a given story could emphasize character or plot depending on how the situation unfolds.

    I just don't believe that writers sit down at the start and decide if they are going to write a plot driven or character driven story. Given the span of history covered, even a biography can be highly plot/event driven.

    Jack Reacher not only has the big novel problem situation to deal with, he also has several smaller situations in each chapter. There is almost always conflict, action, and the resolution of countless small problems as each chapter progresses.

    While Reacher's character determines how he goes about dealing with the bad guys -- usually with violence-- the bad guys come at him, wave after wave, from the plot.

    I believe it is always the situation/context that gives a story it's raison d'être.


    P.S. Plotters don't need no stinkin' plots either.

  22. Melissa c'mon, just because she's a mail order bride stuck in the middle of Nowhere Kansas doesn't mean there can't be shooting and mayhem. Give that a chance, girl.

  23. Jill I'm not absolutely certain. I MEANT to mention it was free.


    The Boden Birthright is FREE YAY!!!

  24. See Cate that is exactly the truth. HOW THE CHARACTER REACTS to the story IS the story. At least in many ways.

    But you still have to HAVE a story.


  25. Kate we're always working, improving.

    I just got a 35 book milestone pin from RWA, and I've actually have around ... well I think I'll be at 48 by years end. But the next after 35 is 50 so I'll hope to earn that next year.

    And I'm still working on making the story move and the characters come alive!

  26. KAV NO WAY! I actually wrote a post that is what you've been thinking about?

    Not sure I helped any but it's still a nice coincidence.

    Do you think MAYBE it's a bogus question? Can a book (except maybe in an extreme example) be one and not the other?
    If it's so obvious why is it so tricky to define?

  27. Jackie the price of the novella is of course not a BIG DEAL.
    It is, however FREE

    Okay the Characters are first and whatever plot wraps around them is just the ride fun characters are on.

    I suppose you're right.

  28. MARY, is it fair to ask hard questions on Monday? My brain needs more caffeine but I'll take a stab at plot vs. character. I may have a "what if?" or a hook like a marriage of convenience or secret baby. (Or is it Tina's trope? I'm ashamed to admit that I'm still confused by the difference.) Anyway, I develop characters with that hook or question in mind, but it's only when I have the characters that I figure out what they want and why and how that brings conflict between the h and h. So I think I write character driven stories.

    This may be a "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" kind of question. The important thing you said Mary is that you're a storyteller. When we're storytellers, we will find a way to get that story on the page.


  29. See Cindy I think you're right (and what? I'm going to DISAGREE with anything you say after THAT nice comment?????)


    I do think sometimes we analyze things too much. When we are trying to write a blog like Seekerville thought we are always trying to teach confusing things.

    I'm frowning with confusion as I type.

  30. So true, Vince.

    The free sample had better make them hungry for more.

  31. BY THE WAY Bethany House just told me The Boden Birthright is going to be available in LARGE PRINT.
    I think that's so cool. So it WILL be a print book.
    I'm not sure how long it takes for that to happen. It's not up on Amazon or Barnes and Nobel yet. But I'll make sure and let you know.

    Large print books are PRICY so you may want to nag your local library into buying it.

  32. Congratulations Mary Yay, a new series. I love your writing so am looking forward to a new series.

    Have a great day.

  33. MARY, congratulations on your new series! Are prequels necessary? As a reader, I'm confused about WHEN to read it when it comes out later in the series. Any help in clarifying this issue is most welcome!

    Please put me in the drawing for a $15 gift card from Amazon.

  34. Mary, I love your books and novellas and prequels because they are all about your memorable characters. I love revisiting the people and the children of your stories. I love how you write - be it character or plot driven - it doesn't really matter to me because you tell a wonderful story every time. Did I mention I love your work? I'm trying to match the number of times you mentioned the wonderful word "free". GLOM!!!! Gotta get me some Connealy storytelling.

    As for the stories I write? I tend to be short on plot, so I say I'm more character driven. Personally, I think character driven and plot driven are just the two sides of the same coin of STORY. But then, I'm not published, so what do I know? Only what I've learned here at Seekerville. Which I love, love, love!

    I probably didn't help with the debate of the day, but putting my name in the draw for that Amazon card would be nice too.

    Did I mention that I love your stuff? (along with freebies...)

  35. Hi KAYBEE

    I'd think a rolling wagon train would keep stories churning for a decade.

    And NYC after WWI is such an interesting time! Great choices!

    And your comments on Character Driven have added to the cacophony in my head of self-doubt.

    I really do have a PLOT that I'm trying to work through when I write.

    I guess that's why I go back to saying, "I consider myself a storyteller."
    Because it's all of a piece.

  36. Vince LOL very good case for the mix of plot and character.
    And the odd 'stinkin' plot' comments now percolating are a plot in themselves.

    I believe Seekerville's comment section now has a story line/conflict/motivation and of course, as always, there will be a Happily Every After.

    (that's cuz I AM IN CHARGE and all my stories end thusly)

  37. OOh, Janet, I like that 'what comes first, the chicken on the egg' comment.

    Yes that's a better way to put it. A book needs both plot and character or it's just stupid.

    I like the mystery thing, that seems so plot driven, and yet is Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly's iconic police detective less of a pivotal character because he is cracking a mystery?

    btw I find mysteries very hard to write. I have some in my books but mostly they're more suspense. We know who the bad buy is, it's catching him....STOPPING him/her that's the problem. Mysteries are far more complex.

  38. Thanks, Sandra. I love kicking off a new series, too. It's always FUN!

  39. Oh Yeah, Caryl I can solve that problem.

    You read every book of mine the minute it comes out.

    simple, huh?

  40. DEBH did I mention to you that the heroine in my NEXT series, not this one, is currently named Deb Harkness.

    She's getting married (if I have anything to say about it) and so is her sister Gwen Harkness, so the name only lasts just so long. :)

  41. I figure I'm nearly always plot driven, as the plots happen in my head but I have to work harder to develop my characters.

  42. YAY WALT!

    I like plot driven for some reason. I guess I think I need a reason beyond annoying characters to shoot someone.

  43. Mary, I have the Boden Birthright, Mary, and it's worth every penny I paid!!! ;) Seriously, I'm chompin' to read it after I finish some required reading because I have NO DOUBT it's as wonderful as your other books, my friend.

    You asked: "Is that fun or am I just being a self-indulgent twit?"

    No, it is TOTALLY fun to write a novella/prequel novella about characters/families you know. My favorite novellas to write are about the O'Connors because frankly, I miss them and the Seeker Christmas novellas give me the chance to revisit. Of course, I usually have deleted scenes from O'Connor books that help me springboard into a story and write it quickly, so that really helps. :)

    Also, often there are so many characters in our stories (yours and mine) who we reallllllly like, but they are only cameo or minimal subordinate characters who aren't a big part of the plot. That happened with me in the Heart of San Fran series with the McClares. I loved the happy-go-lucky, humorous rogue brother, Blake McClare, but he was just window-dressing/comic relief in the series. But I (and many of my readers) wanted to see his story, so that became my novella, Grace Like Rain, which was soooooo fun to write!

    YOU ALSO ASKED: "I guess what I wonder is, does this change an author to go character first? You know the old plot driven/character driven question. Which are you?"

    Yes, I think it does "change an author to go character first," but totally in a good way. When I already know a character, the plot just seems to flow from that character's personality so naturally and effortlessly, making the plot itself so easy and natural as well. I have only written two novellas where the plot came first because I didn't know the characters and had to come up with a whole new premise for the novella, and I have to say that these were the HARDEST novellas I've ever written. I do much better when I already know the characters and have fleshed them out in another story because it's more like reminiscing about the prior family, which is always fun to do.

    Great post, Mare, as always!


  44. Yep, Mary, you did mention that to me at some time. I hope Deb is a heroine people like. I'm sure she'll be much more interesting than I am *grin* Do "I" get to shoot at someone? (question purely tongue-in-cheek)

  45. Mary, I do think you're right that you can't separate the two. But I tend to have the most difficulty with the external plot, so I focus on characters!

  46. p.s. I married into the Harkness name, so no getting out of it now. ;)

  47. Interesting thoughts, Mary. I really get invested in characters--my own as well as in the novels I read--so I enjoy keeping up with what's happening in these characters' lives, both before and after.

    On the other hand, as you mentioned, once characters are established, if you write a prequel or a sequel, you're locked in to whatever has happened in their lives already. So it does kind of limit where you can go with the story.

    I also like what Julie just said about recurring minor characters. It offers a sense of familiarity, even if you don't really expand much upon their characterization.

  48. The Boden Birthright was totally worth way beyond the amount I spent on it! (And who doesn't love FREE!) And I'm beyond ready to read me some of "No Way Up"!!! It's on my top 5 TBR for the summer months.

    As for the whole circle discussion of plot verses character...I read/write stories because of the characters I fall for inside them...but, there has to be a plot or the characters would feel flattish'(or some other more descriptive word) sooo I guess I like both? Please. Maybe. If that is an option?

  49. If we talk about character-driven as the absence of plot, then I think maybe we are confusing character-DRIVEN and character DEVELOPMENT. You can have a strongly developed character and still have no or weak plot. (Trying to do better at inserting white space for Tina.) ;-)

    I've been reading a bit about plot lately and have discovered that plot is not just stuff happening. It's not even just GMC when the GMC is insufficient to propel the story (as in, for example, you keep needing to invent new GMC to keep the story going as opposed to having one more-or-less unified goal or motivation to drive character choices throughout—and one more-or-less unified source of conflict: enter villain).

    [An aside: This was the problem in my current WIP, I think. I had GMC. There were many goals (all of which made sense), but they diluted the impact. And maybe they weren't as specific or urgent as they needed to be. (How can they be when there are so many??) I also had a number of plot events that were only loosely connected to the hero's goal. (Multiple sources of conflict. Multiple motivations tugging at the hero's mind. I had a mess. I'm still working out how to fix it.) But … Your character can't be very driven when they want several different things equally so that their goals are scattered. One goal must rise above the rest, and then that one thing becomes the driving force for your plot.]

    Plot (at least according to Swain) is a linked series of motivation-reaction units. Not random, but related. Not that character does A1 then A2 then A3. But that the character's GM causes him/her to do A1, conflict prevents success, causes him/her to reassess his/her choices and then, with no better choice, he/she decide upon doing A2. Cause and effect. One thing leads to another. I think that is the “driven” in any book, whether we are talking about character- or plot-driven stories.

    Perhaps plot-driven occurs more when external circumstances drive character decisions more so than internal desires??? For example, a character is accused of murder and runs to avoid arrest while also trying to prove their innocence. (Something like the fugitive.) External circumstances begin the journey and keep it going (the character can't rest until they have proved their innocence).

    Thus, character-driven might be described as a story driven more by the internals, as in my current WIP. There are more-or-less static circumstances that create within my hero a deep desire. THAT is what begins his journey. Not some tragic incident (like the murder of an aunt and uncle by the evil Empire that motivates the reaction of a reluctant Jedi-potential living on an isolated desert planet: Star Wars).

    Here is the rough synopsis for my current WIP. Character-driven, but hopefully not without plot:

    Fourteen-year-old Cory Sokolowski is dying a slow death from the genetic disorder that keeps stealing his dreams—and any faith he might've had. All his life, he's harbored a longing for family. His parents are dead. His older sister is incapable of affection. And his beloved grandmother's health is failing fast. Unlikely ever to have a family of his own, Cory yearns to work with kids. To be for them the family, the role model, and the advocate he wished he'd had. And with his life already half gone, he needs to begin NOW. The only problem is: the one place willing to interview him is a Christian summer camp. And, in order to land the job of junior counselor AND KEEP IT, he'll be forced to fake his faith—to the counselors over him, to the children he hopes to serve, and to the annoying peer who weasels her way into his heart.

  50. I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets a little confused over plot vs character-driven story (and other similar this-or-that classifications).

    I think my WIP is character-driven, since it's more about how the characters change, but the plot prods them out of their holes so that they CAN change . . . and then, as they change, they exert more influence over the plot (such as make a decision they might not otherwise have made).

    As you said, it's hard to have one without the other.

  51. Julie sez: I have the Boden Birthright, Mary, and it's worth every penny I paid!!! ;)

    LOL isn't THAT the truth!!!

  52. Julie, don't they say that ... thinking ... that in a novella the couple should already know each other? That it much simplifies the process if they're co-workers and old friends/couples.
    So maybe it also helps if the AUTHOR knows them.

  53. DebH my Deb hasn't shot anyone...yet. But she has shown a willingness to.
    it's early days so we'll see. :)

  54. Well, Missy I LOVE your characters so keep doing what works for you!!!

  55. DebH maybe I should have named my HERO Harkness!

  56. It's true you're locked in Myra but isn't that the POINT?
    You've created these characters and the backstory that comes with them, so then I went back and wrote that backstory out....sort of.
    My book characters are children, the youngest barely born in the prequel ... in an epilogue.

    But that backstory, that I'm always telling people not to frontload or dump, exists and bringing it to life sort of HELPS make the characters more concrete, the backstory to them more clear.

  57. Megan I'm with you. I think they are inseparable. In fact I think the whole theory may be bogus.

  58. JULIE said: "When I already know a character, the plot just seems to flow from that character's personality so naturally and effortlessly, making the plot itself so easy and natural as well." Oh, I wish I felt that way. I can know all about a character and what they want and still struggle to know how to make best advantage of that in terms of the unfolding plot.

    Perhaps part of my problem, as TINA said not so long ago, is that I am an overthinker. Grrr. Yes, guilty as charged. And I recently read a webpage that talked about how writing involves the right and left sides of the brain (the muse, and the critic). My critic is often my enemy. If anyone's interested, the site can be found here:

    It provides amusing explanations such as: "Your muse is laid-back by nature and only wants to write when the mood strikes him (which isn't very often). The critic is the one who stops the muse staring out of the window and forces him to get on with the writing." And "The muse delights in thinking beautiful thoughts and getting them down on paper in the form of a story. The critic checks the work for poor structure and weak characterization."

  59. LARA I think you just wrote a really good BLOG POST in the comment box.

    Good for you.

    I'm going to read it again now.

  60. Lara I love that plot for your book. It's really powerful. Wow.

    I'm not sure I'm even exactly commenting on what you said but the main thing to remember, and I think your Swain quote makes that point is, there needs to be an overarching conflict. One main one. Yes you can have many short term conflicts within that but if the conflict/solution, conflict/solution is played out in the short term without the overarching plot you end up with a book that is episodic and those aren't right.

    I've read a few and I know it's a mistake. And yet it's hard to come up with a big, book length conflict. Most sane people (characters) just straighten their lives out quickly.

  61. MARY, Thanks for the compliment. I'm still struggling with my current WIP, but I'm learning a lot about plot that I never thought about before. Swain's book "Techniques of the Selling Writer" has been a big help, as well as blog posts I've found here. The problem for me lies in translating all that newfound knowledge into a solution for my own WIP.

    Hopefully my ramblings will be of help to some other poor soul out there like me who is desperately struggling to find the right plot for their over-developed characters ;-). (Okay, there's no such thing. But you get the point.)

  62. Mary, you have the best way of explaining things. I'm still learning the whole Plot Driven / Character Driven world. I tend to write the story (Plot?) and then discover my characters but lately, I'm finding that I am "meeting" my characters and getting to know them prior to writing the story. At least such is the case with my newest WIP. Although it's also based on the idea of a I've really confused myself. I need more coffee. I'm thrilled to say I "bought" The Boden Birthright and have no doubt it's as FABULOUS as ALL your books :) HUGS!

  63. LARA SAID: "Oh, I wish I felt that way. I can know all about a character and what they want and still struggle to know how to make best advantage of that in terms of the unfolding plot.Perhaps part of my problem, as TINA said not so long ago, is that I am an overthinker. Grrr."

    LOL ... an "overthinker," eh, Lara? Which means a plotter rather than a pantster, right? My heart goes out to you, my friend, because I'm a pure pantster who had to learn to become a plotter, so it's not easy going in the other direction, but definitely doable. I remember in a fiction-writing class I once took, they made us do free-style writing for ten minutes every class, which is pen to the paper, and don't stop or lift the pen away till the ten minutes is up. You just have to write and keep writing, NOT think about if it's good or bad. I discovered that I wrote some of my best stuff in those ten minutes, so give it a shot.


  64. Mary, always fun to read your posts. I have "bought" this prequel. I will have to try to get to it soon. The problem I have found since I have been participating in Seekerville is all the books I have in my TBR pile. (It is a nice problem as far as problems go, however.) I enjoy prequels and recurring characters.

    My wip is about a tornado so it is definitely plot driven, but I also had definite characters in mind and how they would react to the storm, so maybe it is both. But I agree that character development and character driven could be confused as some were saying.

    Please enter me for the Amazon card! I need more books! :)

  65. Congrats on the new series! Can't wait to read the prequel and following!

  66. Actually, JULIE, I'm part plotter, part pantser. In the past, I've spent equal times writing vs. brainstorming and thinking about where I'm going with the story. The last story I wrote just sort of happened, and that was the technique I used (half 'n half). If I hadn't just written some things, though, the story never would've gotten off the ground.

    However, I'm finding that the more I learn about plot, etc, the more my inner critic kicks in to sabotage the whole process. Speedbo did wonders for me … So, yes, I do need to JUST WRITE. But even though my writing has really slowed these past few weeks as I've been thinking about how to fix the plot problems in my story, it forced me to come up with some alternatives as to how to make my story more workable—a good thing in the long run.

    That's how I came up with the summer camp idea. I was thinking about a blog post I read here: The specific question regarding the hero and heroine was “What plot element will keep shoving them together? What story element or secondary character will keep them in contact throughout the book?” I didn't have a good answer to that question until I unified my hero's goal to his desire to work with kids and created the summer camp scenario.

    I still need to fill in the plot details regarding what happens at the camp so I'm not out of the woods yet, but … progress is progress.

  67. Lara what you are talking about is alllllllll CRAFT.
    And you are struggling with, studying and practicing craft and that's as it should be.

    The CRAFT is someone you can learn, the TEMPERMENT to sit by yourself makin' stuff up for hours on end is a personality type and I think you're either got it or you haven't. But if you've got it, the the craft is all about hard work and learning.

    Keep it up.

  68. Sharee thank you so much for buying my book! (insert eyeroll LOL)
    I was just daydreaming about lunch and pizza with you.
    Did I tell you I went to the Wisner Steak House and got a menu?

    We could go nuts and try a different place but I love the idea of going into the Pizza Hut and having them tell US we usually get Pan crust not thin. THEY KNOW US!

  69. Julie I'm imagining me, with my ghastly handwriting, scribbling for ten minutes. The teacher would no doubt take my offering and beat me to death with it (wishing she'd given me two hours so it could be heavier and a more lethal weapon!

  70. Sandy! WE ALL NEED MORE BOOKS!!!! LOL!
    Isn't that just so TRUE. I always want ONE MORE (okay ten more)
    A tornado, huh?
    Have you looked at Pilger? Tiny Nebraska town with a tornado ripping through the middle of it.
    And what was that town south of Lincoln that did the same thing? Hallam? Haldol? (no that's a psychiatric drug)
    It's Hallam:,_Nebraska_tornado
    Here's Pilger:,_2014_tornado_outbreak

  71. Hi Edwina it's so nice to see your comment and face! It's always a party when Edwina shows up! :D

  72. Lara a good way to put it is, you shove them together physically and shove them apart emotionally. So they are with someone who irritates the stuffing out of them, but who they are also attracted to and stuck with.

  73. Kaybee, Love it. Joannie and Chachi.

  74. Mary, I have followed the Hallam and Pilger tornadoes. I bought the book Eighty-One Seconds about the Pilger tornado which gives me lots of ideas for details I could include. We drove through Pilger a couple months ago. Since my book will end about a year after the tornado, I wanted to see what a town might look like then, although it has been two years since Pilger. But it was interesting to see how much has not been rebuilt. You can even still see the large red X on some of the buildings which had meant they had been checked.

  75. I agree with Missy- character driven plotting. If one or the other is weak then it's noticeable. The ones I enjoy the most are strong with both characters and plot. If one had to be stronger than the other, I would prefer the characters to be.

    I absolutely love the novella prequel trend! Whether they are free or a few dollars, count me in! Can't wait to read your new stories!!!

  76. Being a Very Green Rookie in the fiction world, I'm going for plot driven at the moment. I want a "chic lit, rom-com, happy, high energy with a Spiritual BANG at the end" kind of book. Not too deep.

    I LOVE that you go back & write about your characters. I always wanted Charlie from "Gingham Mountain" to grow up to be a Texas Ranger. He had that sneaky, crime solving personality that would make a great Texas Ranger!

  77. Hi Mary .

    First off, thanks for taking the time to write this article. :)

    Now, *deep breath* my answer to your question(s)…boy, from a writer's perspective, is it an issue for me!

    I can understand where you are coming from when you talk about writing a story that is character driven or plot driven (or mixed). It’s one area I’m currently contending with. You see, I had an idea for a scene…that is how many of my story ideas start. From developing that scene, several characters were born…and I’ve gotten to know them quite well. I will go off on tangents for days creating their back stories even. BUT, then when I sit back down to write out the story they were meant to live in…the plot gets a pot hole in it or something…and all of a sudden these characters I’ve grown so fond of no longer fit into the story - A fact I really don't appreciate. It makes me want to eat chocolate.

    So the idea for my wip was driven by a circumstance and what a character might do in that circumstance - half plot/half character driven. But once more meat was placed in the plot I found my characters kicked from the sweet spot I had picked out for them, which turned it into a more plot driven story. Maybe our stories go through stages, like with horse riding - sometimes we lead the horse, other times we let the horse have at it and lead us! Both personalities (of the rider and of the horse) will decide the tone of things at various times, but both end up working together to create a fun experience.

    Does that make sense? Lol. If so, any thoughts? If not, I’m going for more caffeine after I post this. ;)

    As a reader: Give me a bunch of characters that are awesome and you have me. I will overlook so much! But I don’t like cliff hangers particularly. That is like creating a tv show episode and putting, ‘to be continued…’ at the end. AH!

    Also (pet peeve alert): Don’t mess with the characters. I just finished reading a LONG book with characters I’d fallen in love with. I knew it was the first book in a series…so I looked the series up only to find out that by the third book one character I care a lot about gets a very short, tragic end of the stick. I had to go off by myself and re-write the characters’ stories to forget about the shocking book plot... I won’t be reading it. *sniff, sniff*

    Does anyone remember when the tv show M*A*S*H (spoiler alert) killed off Henry Blake? *shaking head* That was so unneeded.

  78. p.s. Oh, and yes! Please enter me for the drawing! I’d be happy to doggy ear No Way Up for first dibs. ;)

  79. Sandy I haven't driven through Pilger. I'm doing it!

  80. Heidi you mean we could have gotten MONEY out of people.

    RATS! Too late now. It's FREE!!!!!

  81. Jana you know Charlie is married to one of Belle Tanner's daughters right?
    At the end of Sharpshooter in Petticoats he's sweet on Sarah and marries her.

    Surely he needs all his wiles to survive that!!!!

  82. I love this, Meg. The whole comment. Tangents for backstory for days. I totally get that.


    and all of a sudden these characters I’ve grown so fond of no longer fit into the story - A fact I really don't appreciate. It makes me want to eat chocolate.

    THIS IS SO TRUE! Do you wrestle your characters back to the story or change the story so the characters can live their lives as themselves.

    SO TRICKY!!!

  83. Meg I love this whole comment. For some reason this song started running through my head.

    Life's a dance you learn as you go.
    Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow.
    Don't worry 'bout what you don't know.
    Life's a dance you learn as you go.

    That's like sometimes you lead the horse, sometimes the horse leads you. LOVE IT!

  84. And Meg (yes still reacting to your comment) I hate when characters act out of character.

    That's cheating.

  85. Plot driven or character driven?

    Does it really matter? I mean, really. What is the reader looking for?

    A good story told well.

    I'll leave it to the poor freshmen in American Lit class to figure out where any of my stories fit in the grand scheme of things. I've done my time.

    I'm just writing stories. :)

  86. BTW - I loved The Boden Birthright. I'm ready to dive into the series!

  87. A good story told well.
    Now THAT is poetry, Jan!

  88. And thanks for telling me you liked The Boden Birthright!!!!
    The fun has just begun.

  89. Mary, I need to read the comments, but thought I'd share my thoughts first.

    I start with plot. The suspense, the danger, the climax. But it's just a frame on which the real story will hang. And the real story is all about the characters who reveal themselves, sometimes very slowly! Right now, I've got that framework for a new story that struggled to take shape until the characters started to open up and tell me about their internal conflicts and the real point of the story. Plot is the external...the real story can be found below the surface.

    Does that make sense? Hope so.

    Did anyone bake cookies today? I'd love an oatmeal raisin!

  90. Debby - makes perfect sense to me. You also alleviated a few fears of mine. Plot driven seems to work so well with suspense. Not that we can't create wonderful characters, because you do, but IMHO plot and suspense go hand in hand.

  91. Debby I like that. I like the way you put it.
    Maybe instead of talking about plot driven vs character driven we just need to talk about the balance of those two essential elements!

  92. Terri that's the way it seems to me, too. You need a good PLOT! You need a good basic STORY Debby said, be the framework to build the story on.

  93. I'm not a writer, so I don't have a WIP, but there are constantly storylines going on in my head. When I think of plot vs. character driven I think about the order you come up with it in. Like for plot driven, you think up there's someone who robs a bank and then x,y, and z happen. Vs. character where you think up Rob and what he's like and his back story and there's something that then forces him to rob a bank. IN the end, does it really matter if it's a good story? But also, every book needs some element of suspense, because let's face it, our normal lives are boring and that's why we read.

    I think it is much better for novellas to start with the characters knowing each other because of the fast pace. Or at least the knew each other once upon a time. Although, in historical fiction it isn't as hard pressed to believe fast marriages because of the times, or for instance war-time. One thing I like in some series is that the first novel wraps up with I love yous, etc, but not necessarily a wedding, but then in later books they either say they're married, or the wedding happens, or something so their story is still tied up happily-ever-after like, but it happened at some point outside of the pages so there can be a real amount of time. Does that make any sense? A good example would be Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series.

  94. I'm with Janet Dean on the hard question thing. :-) Your post (a very good one) has me wondering about writer arc! I know way back when I started my first (this WIP) effort in big girl writing, a story floated around in my head. But then I learned how much fun it was to develop the characters. I found myself going "whoa" because weirdness happened and I'd find out things about these story people that I didn't know. I'd read about that happening. I have to mention here that learning through my WIP (with the help of Seekers) has been better than a college education and a lot more fun. I've reached a stage that the story is set (tons and tons of editing to do) and my mind (I thought I only had one story) is ripping off on a new adventure based around two of the characters from my first effort. It's kind of like having the horse I'm riding run away with me. So this must be some sort of writer arc or transformation from plot to character driven or else maybe it's all connected.

    Anyway, I've been burying myself in cupcakes with chocolate icing today, a joint effort with my 11 year old granddaughter. The sugar is making the horse run faster.

    I'm excited about your new series, Mary! Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  95. Oooh!!! I. Amy wait to no way up!! I already ready the novella! I don't have any book wips...all my wips are jewelry so they aren't character or plot driven lol

  96. In my current work in progress, which is a second book in a series. I think in a way it is character driven but not sure. I will have to totally rewrite the first book because I didn't have a clue what I was doing when I wrote it. It was my first ever attempt at writing a novel. As I wrote it had ideas of books to follow so decided to write the sequels while I had them in mind yet knowing things could totally change when I redo the first one. If this makes any sense.

    Please enter me for an amazon gift card.

    By the way, I am loving Boden Birthright.

  97. Katherine you mean like you like time between stories? Like a month to pass? Becasue that makes sense....I suppose it all depends on the PLOT (or is it the characters?)

    But I like your bottom line, in the end does does it really matter?
    If reading the book is a good time!

  98. Ah Barbara I LOVE THIS. You've got your next story already pushing to get out!


    Finish this one and GET STARTED ON THE NEXT ONE. Because you are right, WRITING is the best education for being a writer!

  99. Alecia there you go, they are your BABIES!
    They are DIAMONDS! Precious gems.

    Far too complex to call character/plot driven!

  100. Wilani, here's your quote for the day.

    The best writing is re-writing.

    That's about all I remember from my time in college. That one sentence.
    Thankfully it was before you have to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for an education so we don't have to be horrified.

  101. MARY, I think I'm more into writing character-driven stories, and reading them, but after skimming the comments, I'm not sure, lol. I do know that however you describe your books, I love them!

    I'm substitute farming for a relative this week and have to (AAAACK, so out of my comfort zone here) feed the cows, horses, chickens and gather eggs, etc. in a little bit so I'm just passing through here in a blur. But I fully intend to read every one of these comments later. This is such an interesting discussion. Thank you!

  102. Mary, I stopped by long enough to read this this morning, but then I got tied up working and didn't get back!!!!!

    You have wowed the folks with typical Mary brilliance.

    I think the blend is crucial, but I'm a character driven storyteller.... I have to fill plot holes like a roadman in an upstate winter.


    Stone and oil.

    A little concrete...

    Patch those holes!!!!!

    But I love unforgettable characters, I love stories that stick with folks long after they've put the book aside.

    But with holes in the plot, it doesn't matter how winsome or thought-provoking the characters are, readers have my permission to throw the book across the room.

    I've been plugging holes a lot this spring, so if the writing gig doesn't pan out, I'm putting my application in at the Highway Department.

    I have a lot of experience!!!!

  103. And I love hearing you two and your Jack Reacher stories....

    Whoever he is.

    I love Barbara's take: Finish one, start another.

    You go, girl!!!!!!

    And now I'm back to work for about 30 minutes....

  104. Love your post, Mary.....always so interesting! I want to be in for the Amazon I am off to get the freebie. I kinda fell behind with the knee sg. and so much rehab, but am ready to read MORE now.

  105. Laura I could help you SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!

    Report back.

  106. Ruthy I could join your road crew.

    It sounds like heavier lifting than writing though.

  107. Jackie I hope you're feeling well now! God bless you.

  108. Congrats on the new series, Mary - thanks for an enjoyable post!!

    I'd love nothing better than winning a gift card to purchase 'No Way Up' - please drop my name in the drawing!!

  109. MARY, I survived!! Although some of my family members are chicken whisperers and crazy chicken ladies (my mother, aunts, cousins, daughter) I've always been terrified of them - the chickens, I mean, not my relatives. My mother was an Oklahoma farm kid, but we lived in Fort Worth during my childhood. Then after I married and left home, Mama up and moved the rest of the family to a big farm in central Texas so most of my siblings are farm kids, but I never got to experience that. My husband and I ended up moving to the same rural area later (always lived in town though) and my kids got to hang out at grandma's. They learned to love farm life. I love rural life, even our church is way out in the country, but I'm definitely out of my comfort zone when it's just me and the animals. Thankfully my husband went with me this evening and fed the horses, goats and one sweet cow, while I tried to bond with the chickens :-)

  110. HI BONTON! You're in the drawing!

  111. Laura, chickens are nasty little critters. Trust me if they didn't lay eggs and fry up well, no one would ever have the little beasties around.
    Doesn't mean I couldn't handle it.
    All that pecking and scratching and flapping doesn't like.......leave a mark. But it's unpleasant!

  112. I think most of the stories I read are character driven, or at least, I personally am concerned with/care about the characters.

    When I think plot driven, I think of stuff like juvenile fiction in which the characters are a little more two dimensional or ... not stereotyped, but that are a type: e.g. series such as The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitters Club, etc.

    I have no idea if that's correct or not ... I probably should read the comments ... =)

  113. Mary - I’m glad my thoughts were clear enough to follow! I really like the song lyrics you posted too by the way: "Don't worry 'bout what you don't know. Life's a dance you learn as you go.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and I am attempting to live in that realization. Life is more fun and less stressful from this perspective. :)

    When characters act out of character = awful. Whether it happens in a book or in a movie, it’s awful and many times it causes me to not want to read/watch the story again. And that is truly sad.

    Congrats on the new series upcoming - how many stories do you guys generally juggle at one time?! I'm truly impressed.

  114. Wilani, congrats on persevering! :D

    Getting in the mindset that re-writing is a normal part of writing has been a hard habit to build. But it’s worth it in the end when you have that nice story neatly formatted on your desk. :)

  115. I am a reader. . but I think I prefer character driven. I just like people.
    Thank you

  116. I am a reader, but I like character driven too..
    I have the prequel in my Kindle & would love to be entered
    for a chance to read your new book!

  117. A story is nothing without plot; and the plot is nothing without the characters to bring it to life. This is good food for thought. I love the characters best. It is their "taking over of the story" that often puts those unexpected swerves in the plot and threatens to run away with the story! Thanks for the post. Your excerpt is FABULOUS!

  118. I am a reader and a reviewer for Bethany House...and I am oh such a critical reviewer. LOL. I think that's why it takes so long to write reviews. Because i want the potential reader to understand the WHY I like or dislike a book. I never just say "oh it was a good story and I liked the plot. or I liked the characters." I have to say why!!!! And then I get so darned long winded--which I'm working on. Since supposedly no one likes long winded reviews. (gulp)

    Now as to character driven vs Plot driven. i have read many stories for each. I think I agree with Rebecca McLafferty that you can't really have one without the other--HOWEVER. I need my characters to be REAL! They need baggage. I don't care what kind as long as it's believable and something that drives them to do or say what they do. THIS then causes them to react to the primary plot in a certain way--thus moving it AND them forward. i love seeing growth in the characters as they work through the plot. I can't stand characters who stagnate or weren't interesting. On the flip side, i don't like a plot that takes such priority that I can't get to know my characters.

    FORTUNATELY, you have nothing to worry about! I have read all your books and ADORE them. You balance this all out quite delightfully and I am so glad you do series to explore other characters more fully. Now I haven't yet read the novella prequel--although I have it loaded...and you've tempted me by saying this series includes Heath Kincaid...who I don't remember at ALL from your Kincaid series! guess that means time for another reading!! LOL!

    Keep up the good work, Mary! I am pretty sure I have No Way Up on my Kindle to review as well, so now I'm just going to have to get my butt in gear, go find a chair outside, soak up some sun and enjoy some Mary!