Thursday, December 11, 2008

Second Draft Role Reversal

I talked before about character based writers ignoring the advice of plot based writers and vice versa. Now let’s consider when they should apply advice from the other side. Once a character based writer finishes a first draft, she goes back and reads her work. Maybe the plot isn’t as interesting as she thought it was while she was writing. Maybe it drags in the middle. Now’s the time to push aside the books by characterists and pick up a good book by a plotter.

Plotters develop a framework to hang their story from. If they have done a good job, when they begin writing they don’t have to worry about sagging middles and other plot structure problems. With the first draft done, we have access to the whole plot and we can make changes that make it work better. The main reason why the character based writer didn’t do this in the first place is because she couldn’t see the whole plot, but after the first draft is done she doesn’t have that problem.

People who develop the plot first may have another problem. Once the first draft is finished the characters may come off as bland. The plot is great, but the characters need work. So now we look to the character development experts to help us solve the problem. It may be as simple as giving a character a limp or it may require more significant changes, such as making him a poor man instead of a rich man. The changes may require changes in plot, but after the first draft is complete we can see the character more clearly for who he is and figure out how we need to change him to make him more interesting.

Another way to look at this is to say that the characterist and the plotter which roles in the second draft. If you wrote a character based story in the first draft then you are going to be checking the second draft to see how the plot needs to be changed. If you wrote a plot based story in the first draft then you are going to be checking the second draft to see if the plot is consistent with the characters that have now been defined.