Character and Plot

I’m still working on revisions for my middle grade novel.  Learning more about my characters as I go, especially the book’s antagonist.  How his story weaves in and out of the protag’s story, how the two connect and finally, change.  I realize that I’ve been afraid to explore this character’s story.  Why?  Is it because I don’t like him very much?  There seems to be a lot more there than I’ve let come through, and I feel like I’m just now scraping the surface. 

I know about character sketches, the pages of information you write down about your characters before you actually begin writing.  Technically, I’ve done that.  However, if I’m truthful, I’ve probably focused most on the mc.   But then, beyond the character sketches, within the story, there seems to be a depth, a fathoming of the character, that can’t be identified until you get in the midst of everything.

That said, I thought I’d share this info from Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer ( ).  It deals with not only character profiles (it’s been interesting to look at this from the antagonist’s POV), but also how the development and use of character affects your story.

Stories can either be character-driven or action-driven. As the title implies, character-driven stories revolve around the character, are usually slower-paced and internally driven, and the action takes a back seat to the development of the character. Action-driven stories are fast-paced and externally-driven, and the character takes a back seat to the dramatic action.

The goal in writing a compelling story that brings pleasure to the reader or audience is to have a balance between character and action.

Take the Test to determine whether you are stronger at developing Character Emotional Development plotlines or Dramatic Action plotlines.

Fill in the Character Profile below for your protagonist (the character who is most changed by the dramatic action), any other major viewpoint characters and, if there is one, the character who represents the major antagonist for the protagonist.

1. What is this character’s goal?

2. What stands in the way of the character achieving his/her goal?

3. What does the character stand to lose if he/she does not achieve his/her goal?

4. What is the character’s flaw or greatest fault?

5. What is the character’s greatest strength?

6. What does the character hate?

7. What does the character love?

8. What is the character’s greatest fear?

9. What is the character’s dream?

10. What is the character’s secret?


If you filled out questions 1 through 3 with ease, you prefer writing Dramatic Action.

If you filled out questions 4 through 10 with ease, you prefer writing Character Emotional Development.

If you filled everything out with ease, both plotlines come easy.


Without a firm understanding of questions 1 through 3, you have no front story. The Dramatic Action plotline is what gets the reader turning the pages. Without it, there is no excitement on the page.

Without a firm understanding of questions 4 through 10, you are more likely to line up the action pieces of your story, arrange them in a logical order and then draw conclusions. Yet, no matter how exciting the action, this presentation lacks the human element. Such an omission increases your chances of losing your audience’s interest; readers read 70% for character. 

What To Do Next

Now that you know where your strength lies, check out the pages for each type of plotline to learn more about each one. You’ll also find specific plot tips for strengthing a plotline that may be weak in your current project.

Here’s the specific web addy for this info:


Sunday Snippets – Book Talk

I’m reading an interesting book right now, the first adult novel I’ve read in who knows when.  It’s called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 


It’s one of the best books for characterization I’ve ever read.  Set in 1946, post-WWII, it’s about a writer who, in search of an idea for her next book, learns of this literary group and begins corresponding with them.  The group was originally formed as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.

One of my favorite lines from this book is:  “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey?  Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect reader.”

Here’s a blurb from the publisher:

Celebrating literature, love, and the power of the human spirit, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the story of an English author living in the shadow of World War II—and embarking on a writing project that will dramatically change her life. Unfolding in a series of letters, this enchanting novel introduces readers to the indomitable Juliet Ashton. Through Juliet’s correspondence with her publisher, best friend, and an absorbing cast of characters, readers discover that despite the personal losses she suffered in the Blitz, and author tours sometimes marked by mishaps, nothing can quell her enthusiasm for the written word. One day, she begins a different sort of correspondence, responding to a man who found her name on the flyleaf of a cherished secondhand book. He tells her that his name is Dawsey Adams, a native resident of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands recently liberated from Nazi occupation. Soon Juliet is drawn into Dawsey’s remarkable circle of friends, courageous men and women who formed the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as a cover to protect them from the Germans. With their appetite for good books, and their determination to honor the island’s haunting recent history, this is a community that opens Juliet’s heart and mind in ways she could never have imagined.

Love this book.