Character versus story in writing novels

tom in jeep

November 2013 character v. story from Thomas Hollyday Studio, Boston
Years ago I sat at table discussing writing with a very assured and assertive
literary agent. I am not sure how successful she was but she certainly seemed
Experienced in books. She held that character was the most important element in a story. I suggested that story might be more important. So it went, neither of us really agreeing with the other, trading examples and so forth. I am sure, however, that she promoted few books which did not have good characters.
So what do we mean by characters? In my opinion this is the actor who faces the conflict, drives the action and solves the puzzle. If we don’t feel he or she is up to the job, we probably don’t buy the book. However I would argue that it is the
surrounding story that gets us interested in the first place.
If you go down the list of parts of a character as written by John Erianne in Ehow, you might think that if one were left out, the character would be weak. Perhaps we might not finish the story if we did not get his height or what kind of clothes he wears. Certainly some traits define the genre. Handsome men and beautiful women are usual in romances. Joseph Malewitz, in Yahoo, insists on
Motivation as a key of character. In Coben’s Six Years, the protagonist’s love for his girlfriend pretty much drives the story. There’s also the theory of triangles proposed by Tobias in which at least three characters stand off at each other to drive the novel.Yet, regardless, if there is not an entertaining story to work with, the author’s characters don’t have a place to prance.

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