by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.
"What's your next book going to be about?"
"Can't say, but you're gonna love it!"
Like most writers, I have file folders (on my computer and in a file cabinet) filled with story ideas, not to mention all the "what if" scenarios that roll around my head on a daily basis. I figured I could write a story a month for the next five years and not run out of material.
Recently, when my attention was focused more on family than plots, I began to feel a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the story I was building. Nothing specific mind you, but a general "ugh-ness" to the story. I didn't feel the spark, and considering arson played a huge role in my concept, not having a spark was concerning.
After all of the research, the hours gathering information and creating different scenarios, I was unmotivated to continue.
Not to worry, I thought. I'll just open up all of those idea files, I thought. I'll find the perfect plot replacement, I thought.
I thought wrong.
What I learned with that little exercise is that while I have a gazillion different story ideas, very few of them actually translate to novel material. In fact, I couldn't find one I was excited about.
I wanted to fling myself off the highest Colorado cliff I could find. End the agony. Stop the train before it derailed and took others with it.
It hit me.
My post two weeks ago talked about the kind of antagonist shrinks might find intriguing. I'd sort of picked out a general profile, but I hadn't developed that character.
Although as a crime fiction writer plot is important, of equal importance to me are the characters. Until I had this one major player fleshed out a little more, I wasn't going to be happy with anything.
After tackling the bad guy, my arson-ish plot is sizzling again and I'm feeling a little better. For now.
Writers: How do you find your sizzle? Is it always plot or is it character?
Readers: What are you more drawn to? Plot or characters?