The last book I finished in 2010 was “Plot Versus Character” by Jeff Gerke. I met Jeff at the ACFW conference last fall. I was lucky enough to have an interview with him, and when it was over I found myself wishing I could meet him for coffee and a chat. Even in the short time that I talked with him, I got the feeling that he thinks differently than I do. Not just out of the box; it was almost that he was challenging the existence of the box. Reading his book only confirmed that.
The basis of “Plot Versus Character” is that writers are either strong character creators or strong plotters. His technique was developed when he (a plotter) decided to write a character-driven series. He starts with how to create characters that readers will connect with, and then moves into building a plot that provides the perfect stage for the characters.
I started off trying to use the techniques as I read. Right away I knew his book would help me finish my NaNo novel. (No, it still doesn’t have a proper title.) It took too long, though, and I really wanted to finish reading, so I went back to the beginning and got out the Post-It tags I’d found in my Christmas stocking. I tagged the character techniques in yellow, and the plot techniques in green. It’s bristling with Post-It tags now! In fact, I ran out of green and had to hit my back-up stash. I have applied a lot of what I learned to the novel already. Today I went through what I’ve already written and refined it. Tomorrow I start on new material. I expect to have it done this month.
I can say without hesitation that “Plot Versus Character” is the best writing how-to book I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I’ve learned from all that I’ve read, but this one made everything gel. It was the syrup on the big stack of writing how-to pancakes; it covered everything I already knew, soaked into the cracks, and brought everything together. I feel like I’m finally on the right track.