From Jane Friedman’s blog: Which Comes First: Character or Plot?
Let’s see what the author of the post says …
If you have read your share of books on the craft of writing, you will be familiar with the assumption that writers of genre fiction are plot people, while writers of literary fiction are character creators. Graduate students are often dismissive when it comes to plot.
Here’s what I tell them: Whether you are writing horror or haute literary, your novella or novel needs both an engaging protagonist and a compelling plot. …
Yep, I’ve seen that assumption, rolled my eyes, and moved on. Personally, I do think engaging characters are more important than an exciting plot. Or maybe I should say, a compelling plot can be astoundingly low key. I’m thinking here of The Hands of the Emperor. I can hardly imagine anyone would argue that this book is plot-forward. It’s so much a character story that it barely has a plot. Or at least, I think I might argue that the plot is essentially part of the development of the characters. If the characters didn’t develop in those ways, the plot wouldn’t happen at all.
Let’s see where this post goes …
I’ve been hedging on which comes first, plot or character. Honestly, you can’t divorce one from the other. … Put another way, it is not so much what happens to us as it is how we react to what happens to us. And because life gets complicated fast, so does fiction. Even in the most mundane situations, we have choices, lots of them, and how we react affects our destinies, sometimes by inches and other times by miles.
This reminds me of a different question and answer:
Is it nature or nurture that causes xxxxxx?
That’s like asking whether it’s the oxygen or the hydrogen that makes water wet.
Is it character or plot that makes a story engaging?
That’s unanswerable in the same way. What happens is part of the plot, but how the character responds to events is part of the character. It’s like asking whether it’s the oxygen or the hydrogen that makes water wet.