Ideas Versus Plot Versus Characters

Upon looking over a bunch of stories, I figured something out which kind of makes me get what I am trying to do with my writing, and what causes some of my shortfalls.

And that is, I like stories around an idea.

Now, I don’t mean that as an implication that stories often don’t have an idea behind them; I mean different stories have different priorities.

Basic writing rules dictate characters are the most important part of any story. And… I kind of disagree. A good story contains three tips of a triangle, and which one is the most important aspect depends on the type of story, and what genre it’s in, and, ultimately, who the author is.

And those three tips are:

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Ideas (You could also call this “theme” or “message”)

The truly great classic stories, to my mind, hit all three of these—to some degree. And plenty of those great stories are weak in one or even two of the tips. If the idea is interesting enough, if the plot is compelling enough, if the characters are lovable enough, you can forgive the shortcomings in the other sections.

For instance: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy is not exactly strung together on a well-constructed plot. But, its characters and ideas are plain amazing (and hilarious). And Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland isn’t exactly strong in plot, or (at least if coherency is important to you) ideas, but its characters are more enduring and endearing than perhaps any book’s cast. The Giver is weak on character, but the plot and ideas are fascinating (a lot of dystopian fiction leans on the idea side of things.)

And so, what I realized, is I am an “idea” writer. It’s the part of the triangle I aim for and the thing that inspires me to create. And the stories I like to read about, and watch, and listen to audio about, with some exceptions, are idea stories. Stories based around exploring a concept in depth, with characters there to represent and be mouthpieces for opposing viewpoints.

Like I said, the other two are important parts of the triangle too, but I feel in the categorizing of writing and writers (“Faulkners” versus “Hemingways”, “Plotters” versus “pantsers”, etc.) finding what part of the triangle a writer or creator is aiming to appeal to, is important to understanding their style. And is not, inherently—if kept under control—a detriment to their creative skill.

Or, at least, that’s my current idea on it.

Special thanks to: Bob GerkinCollin PearmanDylan AlexanderJerry Banfield, and Michael The Comic Nerd. 

Did you like the article? Dislike? Tell me about it in the comments. I would love to hear your opinions! If interested in specific articles, or want to write as a guest, you can message me at scifibrandonscott@gmail.com. If you want to help keep this blog going, consider becoming my patron at https://www.patreon.com/coolerbs. Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Ideas Versus Plot Versus Characters

  1. This is an interesting post! Within your context of writing, and one that I generally agree with, I’m certainly a character writer who’s a bit deficient on ideas. Very good take away. Thanks for posting!

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