Saturday, May 31, 2008

Character versus Plot

What is more important for a successful novel -- a protagonist with a flawless character that everyone can empathise with, or an interesting, unusual storyline where a slightly flawed character transforms for the better?—Anita Saran, Bangalore City, India

I think that both will make for a great novel. Novels are not constructed out of Legos. It's not just a question of getting a bunch of pieces that will fit together. Novels, like paintings, quilts, or tapestries, are comprised of interwoven threads and cloth or layers of paint, built up carefully so that each sentence, paragraph, and chapter contributes to the bigger picture. Don't try to focus too hard on plot versus character. There is no "versus" or competition there. They must work together like the paint or the thread and cloth to make for a beautiful whole.

Or, to simplify. In a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, once the bread is squished together, you cannot separate the peanut butter from the jelly. Your novel works the same way. :)



Catkins said...

Thank you so much Mr. Zack, for answering my query. I was confused because some writers thought my protagonist is not very likeable. But she does change tremendously. And the story is unique and interesting.

Anita saran, Bangalore, India

cmstavenwise said...

If a writer wanted to find out if their plot/characters/book work by using the services you offer for hire, would it matter if it is in a genre' that you do not currently represent (or are just starting to solicit)? Basically, what I am asking is: Does a "book doctor" do all genre' and offer advice based on the writing itself, or do they specialize and should a writer seek out one who is familiar with the genre' the book is written in?

Thanks for any advice you can give,

Christine, Wisconsin

Andrew Zack said...

Dear Christine:

Not every book doctor does every genre. My other company,, has several book doctors working in many different genres. I encourage you to check out that site and inquire if you think you'd like to learn more about it.


cmstavenwise said...

Thank you Mr. Zack. I will check out that site. I am interested in having a book looked at by this type of professional before I do anything. I have written 4 historial romances and one other type and would prefer to have a book doctor look one over and advise before I send anything out. I do not intend to waste an agent's or a publisher's time (and my own) if I am creating bunk only I might enjoy. I realize that not all can write and just dreaming and putting a story on paper does not make a book. I could be reading rather than writing if I stink. BTW, I am one of those women that read a book or more a day (yes, I read this whole blog). TV is fertilizer for lazy mind after a few hours (in my opinion) and PS3 needs to cool down after 8 hours of play. Thus, I must do something....I read and write to occupy my time. Thanks for your direct advice and I will stop by again to query when I need advice that you can provide. Christine Staeven, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Post a Comment

We will not publish Anonymous comments. If you would like to comment, you should sign your comment with your name, city and state, e.g., John Smith, San Diego, CA. Otherwise we will be forced to reject your comment.

Also, please do not query us here or ask if we would "be interested in" your book. Our query guidelines are clearly outlined on our website and you should follow them if you would like us to consider your work.

Thank you.