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    What’s More Important: Character or Plot?

    michelleMichele Karlsberg: When writing, what is more important to you, character development or plot?

    Vanda: For me, character is everything. As a psychologist, I am fascinated by the varieties of people that exist in this world, what they do and feel, and how they came to be the way they are. My f


    iction reflects this fascination. I love it when my characters completely surprise me. When they have a quirk I didn’t know about, or a secret that suddenly pops out and shocks me. Once I get going, it is my characters that develop the plot and move it forward, not me. Any writer working like I do, without an outline, from the gut, knows exactly what I’m talking about. Plot would not exist without my prime movers–my characters.


    Vanda’s novel, “Juliana (Vol. 1, 1941–1944)” will be published next month by Booktrope Editions.

    Susan Wittig Albert: Nobody says it better than F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Character is plot, plot is character.” Two sides of the same coin, two threads so tangled that it’s hard to separate them.

    I’m a believer in plot. As a reader, my favorite stories have a compelling forward motion that keeps me turning pages, wondering what’s going to happen next, unwilling to put the book down until “it” happens. As a writer, I’m most comfortable with plot that has a strong structure, a scaffold on which story events are built.

    But in my favorite books, it is the compelling characters that carry the story forward. I don’t just wonder what’s going to happen (plot); I wonder what’s going to happen to them, to the characters I care about: people who love, hate, suffer, win, lose, live happily ever after—or not. As a writer, I want to create characters that are strong enough to build their own plots as they go along.


    In addition to mysteries (usually fairly heavily plotted), I write biographical fiction, which has given me a new appreciation for the interweaving of plot and character. In Loving Eleanor, for instance, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok try to build an enduring relationship in spite of the forces that threaten to pull them apart. These two strong women have the force of character that allows them to create their own plots; the plots they create shape the even stronger women they become.

    “Character is plot, plot is character.” Thank you, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    Susan Wittig Albert is the “New York Times” bestselling author of two biographical novels, “Loving Eleanor” and “A Wilder Rose,” as well as 50+ contemporary and historical mysteries. 

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates twenty-seven years of successful book campaigns. 


    Michele Karlsberg