I’ve noticed my recent writing has been very character-centered – particularly in the books set in the world of death gods and Reapers, where the vivid world is counteracted by a very personal storyline. This is quite the change to Dragon Tamers, which was very plotline driven – there was a world, and it needed saved, and these characters were doing it; versus here is our main character, these are their problems and this is their world.
In rewriting the Dragon Tamers series into The Network, my recent attempts have been more character driven - partially due to writing Neil Gaiman, who, despite characters like the protagonist of American Gods being arguably low on the personality front, somehow manages to make them very real.
There are faults to this – things become a lot more meandering, and a lot of readers would prefer to find out where the plot is going rather than listen to a character’s whining.
But it feels great. My god, does it. After years of having the plot move these characters, instead their moving the plot, and it’s fantastic. It’s how writing should be – organic and unpredictable, changed by the twist of a characters thoughts.
Despite authors like Stephen King’s passionate insistence that plots should be determined by the characters as it goes, I moved towards detailed, outlined plots after growing to hate my old ways of letting it go wherever it wanted and never knowing where it was headed, how it would get there, or whether it would make any sense.
But seeing this type of effect on writing – organic and natural, not forced by the need to think up a plot twist to keep the story going, or to follow a predetermined outline – I think I’m beginning to understand just what it means.
My advice: try it. Find that plot-piece character, give them voice and attitude, and let them speak. See where the story goes from there.