Sunday, March 31, 2013

Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke

We here at Books to Write by are excited to introduce to our readers a guest blogger posting today. She has an amazing book to share with you. However, before we get to the review, let's meet her...

Karin Beery is a freelance writer, editor, and writing coach. With over 300 articles published, her work also blogs, novels, guide books, and more. An active member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association, Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network (PEN), and the Evangelical Press Association, Karin enjoys writing and editing in all forms, as well as helping others achieve their writing goals. Karin lives in northern Michigan with her husband, aunt, and two cats.

Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke


What’s more important to a story: a gripping plot or compelling characters? The best fiction is rich in both. This hands-on guide to creating a well-rounded novel embraces both of these crucial story components. Plot Versus Character takes the guesswork out of creating great fiction by giving you the tools you need to inject life into your characters and momentum into your plot. (from the back cover)

 A follow-up to his first craft book, The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, this book is exactly as the title suggests – a look at crafting deep, believable characters and attention-holding plots. 

In Plot Versus Character, Gerke begins by identifying novelists as one of two types: character-focused and plot-focused writers. By focusing on one aspect and ignoring the other, however, writers often end up with one of two stories: rich, interesting characters who do nothing, or stereotypical, shallow characters saving the world.  Though he encourages readers to know which type of writer they are, Gerke’s book discusses both sides and is mapped out to take a writer through the entire process – from character development to the denouement – in order to create a well-rounded novel.

The first section of the book – Memorable Characters – walks you through character development. Gerke starts with Core Personality and Physical Attributes, digs into the character psyche to find The Knot (core issue/struggle), and takes you right to The Final State. It’s more than just knowing whether or not your hero is an introvert. Gerke looks at the complete inner workings of your characters. He shows you the steps to take to find out every little cog that makes them tick. By the time you finish, you’ll know your characters better than you know your spouse.

The second section – Marvelous Plots – looks at the external components of the story: the plot. Using a traditional Three Act layout, Gerke takes the information from section one and shows you how to weave your Memorable Characters into the Marvelous Plots. He shows, using numerous examples from books and movies, how characters and plot work together, complimenting each other to tell a captivating story.

Plot Versus Character is easy to read and hard to put down. I kept a notepad beside me, writing down ideas and concerns that I have for my current work-in-progress. This is not a beginner’s craft book. Gerke doesn’t discuss Point-Of-View or Show vs. Tell. This book is more for the writer working on the story, as opposed to the writer working on the writing. He digs deeper and challenges his readers to not just write stories about people, but to write gripping stories about realistic people. A must-read for any novelist. I’ll be reading it again soon.

For more information about Karin Beery, please contact her at:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Shut Up!" He Explained by William Noble

Debra posted last month on an old book. Tis the season because the book I wish to tell you about this month was first published in 1987. For we boomers, that's not long, but for young writers, it's a lifetime ago.

Good books never lose their power. As a writer, that thought excites me. One lesson I've learned the last few years is that white space on a page beckons readers.

My eyes jump to a page filled with white space or, as writers call it, dialogue.

This has been my week to dwell on writing dynamic dialogue. The 4RV Publishing newsletter welcomed an article from me on Friday, March 1. I wrote about 8 Tips to Dynamic Dialogue. The URL for that article is in case you'd like copy and paste it into your browser and read.

No doubt, writing those words brought an old book to my attention. It's called "Shut Up!" He Explained.

I awoke last night wondering if I had reviewed that book on our books to write by blog. I checked. I hadn't. I am. I purchased this book from Writers Digest years ago before I ever heard of a writing group or a writing conference. It was just me, writing books, and a blank piece of paper.

I rush to this book whenever I struggle to ramp up the emotion in character conversations. When I taught a workshop on dialogue, I searched out this book for help. When I wrote my 8 Tips article Friday, again, I consulted this book. It's my go-to reference on this topic.

I perused the book, opening it on pages where I had sticky notes. I didn't get far. On page 5, I read, "Conversation, then, is not dialogue." Here's the example given: (Yes, I thrive on examples.)
"Where do you live?"
250 State Street
That's conversation.
"You live around here?"
"If you want to call it living."
That's dialogue.

Enough said.

Then, comes page 98 and 99. Yes, there's another sticky-note and tons of underlining and circling. I put my mark on this book. Here Noble compares fiction writing with screen plays. "On the stage, characters rarely speak their lines without doing something--sitting or walking, or drinking or making a face...." This is a good reminder. How long has it been since you went to a live play? Actors study their position on the stage along with their movements and coordination with others on the stage at least as much as their memorized wording. Should our characters not do the same?

Chapter 13 of this book explores beginning a short story or a novel with dialogue. How could that idea pump up the emotion and pull the reader into the main character's plight?

If you haven't added "SHUT UP!" He Ezplained, now might be a good time. The book has been released in paperback and is available on Kindle.

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