J is for Journey

The journey is the character’s story, and the way the journey progresses depends on the choices the character will make.


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The journey, in a nutshell, is the plot.  But I’m not the kind of writer who thinks the plot directs the characters. I believe the characters should direct the plot.

What do I mean by this?  Well, to put it simply, the character comes before the plot.  Every character is as unique as a fingerprint.  No two can be alike.  They might have similarities, but they will be distinct from one another.  Because of this, each character has his own way of trying to obtain his goal.  That is why the journey he takes will evolve from him.

It’s like a domino effect.  You start the story with the character in his normal day to day life.  Things are going along as they have always been.  From there, the character needs to want something, which is the goal.  Everything the character says and does will impact the journey.  And with each new development that pops up to stop him from getting his goal (aka. conflict), he will need to adapt and say or do something else to continue on his way to the goal.

So the basic format for the journey is simply this: introduce character’s world, give character a goal, bring in a conflict that will hinder this particular character from getting the goal, have him react in a way that makes sense for him (given his personality traits), introduce another conflict (should one be necessary), etc.  That’s really all there is to the journey.

The journey ends when either the character gets his goal (happy ending) or realizes he’ll never get it (sad ending).  Either way, there has to be a resolution to the journey.

So when you think of what kind of plot to build around your main character, take into consideration the conflict that will have the biggest impact on the character.  What can you do to the character that will bring about the most angst?   The bigger the angst, the more powerful the story.

But the angst has to be something that makes sense given his personality.  For example, putting a secure character in a socially awkward situation is not sufficient angst to resonate with the reader.  But, if you put an insecure character in the socially awkward situation, it has a lot more impact.

This post is part of the Blogging from A – Z Challenge.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
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4 Responses to J is for Journey

  1. I remember Stephen King saying in his book “On Writing” that basically plot is nothing compared to the characters. The characters and their personalities should drive the plot, not the other way around. The characters’ journey is dependent on the characters themselves.

    • Oh cool! I am in complete agreement with him. 🙂 Maybe this is why we don’t like plotting. It hinders us from allowing the character to drive the story. I’m sure there are some authors who can plot a book while knowing the character intimately already, but I need to write the book in order to learn who the character is.

  2. Juli Hoffman says:

    Well said! You could have the same plot idea, but a different set of characters would quickly turn it into a different story. The characters really do drive the story! 🙂 Great post!!!

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