Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I've Got a Theory: That Spark is Your Super Strength

Okay, so you know how everyone has one method of learning that works better than others?  Seeing, hearing, or touching, right? You may learn best by, say, by seeing, but you can still learn by hearing or touch-- it's just takes a bit more work.

And you know how there's three basic elements to every story-- Plot (including conflict), Characters, and Setting?

Well, I have a theory that sort of combines the two concepts:

Out of the three main story elements, everyone has one area of super strength that they are a natural at.

About about your current work in progress, think back to the very, very beginnings of it when that first spark of an idea came to you. That thing you built the entire story around. Was it a character that inspired the story? A place where the story would happen? An idea for a general concept or a fabulous conflict? When you get a new story idea, that initial spark-- character, setting, or plot-- generally comes in the form of the thing out of those three you are best at.

So... if I'm a natural at writing characters that feel real, does that mean my plot and setting are going to stink?

No. It just means that you are going to have to try harder on your plot and setting than you had to do on characters. That those things probably aren't going to be strong enough in the first draft, and it will take a few rounds of revisions to get them up to the same level as the thing you've got super powers at.

Okay, so a few examples. I would dare say that Stephenie Meyer's and J.K. Rowling's strengths are in characters. Stephenie said that her characters came to her fully-formed (a huge hint that characters are her strength). And in both of those series, wasn't it amazing how real the characters-- even the minor ones-- felt? And I think than Dan Brown's, John Grisham's, and James Patterson's strengths lie in plot. And that pretty much every high fantasy book's strengths are in setting.

So what do you think? Do you have one area of super strength and other areas that you have to work really hard at to get to the same level?

23 comments:

prerna pickett said...

I think mine may be plot...but that's yet to be seen. I do know I struggle a bit with setting. I'm not sure about characters, I'd like to think they're fully developed.

WilyBCool said...

Plot is definitely my weakness. I enjoy character development, always have. ;D

JeffO said...

I don't know if I've found it, yet. The first two novels I started both started out of plot ideas. One was 'finished' as part of last year's NaNo, but I haven't gone back to revisit it yet (actually, I did a bit of editing on it, but nothing serious). The WiP that has consumed me for the last ten months started with a character. Maybe the fact that I've devoted so much time to it is indicative of that being my strength, I don't know....

It's a very interesting idea.

Cynthia said...

Interesting- I'm thinking Character, but I'd have to have my critque partners. LOL

Ashley Nixon said...

Man. Idk what I'm best at...I think dialogue...what does that mean? lol. I never fully develop anything, I just write it, so I'm probably worse at plot...but then Idk...cause it usually works out and connects pretty well.

I always love your theories!

Ruth Josse said...

I love your ideas. :) Plot or concept come to me first, but I'd have to say I can handle any of the three things. Just not at the same time, unfortunately.

Tara Tyler said...

i might hav super bad powers, adverbs, taggy dialog and unliterary & unrefined settings

thanks for helping me find my weakspots!

J. A. Bennett said...

This is interesting becasue someone told me the other day that I'm good at plot details, and I never considered that before. Great post!

E.R. King said...

Hmm, my inner spark would be characters. I like to build everything else around them: plot, setting, dialogue. If you don't know your characters, your WIP won't go far.
Great post!

Carrie Butler said...

Characters. Definitely characters. :)

Maggie said...

Great post. I think it varies from book to book. For instance, in two of my manuscripts, character was the biggie for me, but in another it was setting. Plot is the one I always need to work on the most.

Angela Brown said...

I don't know if I have a superstrength. I have a wonky imagination so I tend to come up with ideas well enough. Not sure if that qualifies...

Imogen said...

I start with either characters or plot. Never setting though. I think that's probably my weakest spot!

Jennifer Hillier said...

I would say my strengths are characters and dialogue, my weakness by far is plot, and I'm improving with creating settings.

Great post, Peggy!

Iain said...

I'm a plotter. I see stories everywhere. The rest is very hard work.
It's an interesting theory. I just tended to assume that everyone had plots coming out of their ears, and were just better than me at the other bits.

The Golden Eagle said...

Mine is plot. Though for my current project, setting came to me a lot more clearly than it usually does . . .

Angela Cothran said...

I love this theory :) I think mine is characters--they are the easiest for me. Everything else I work at.

E.D. said...

Definitely characters! Everything else is sort of a struggle.

Jessie Humphries said...

I don't know about me...but I'm going to take a stab at ur strong point...setting. ur book really transports me.

Leigh Ann said...

Kissing. DEFINITELY kissing. I mean, writing it, too. ;)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh my gosh! I LOVE reading everyone's responses! It's extra fascinating to read when people have different strengths than I do.

If you had asked me what my strong suit was before I wrote this post, the first thing that would've come to mind would have been plot. Except that I have to work REALLY HARD on plot. I just tend to like plot-heavy books, and work to write plot heavy books, too. But when I actually thought more about it yesterday, I realized that for the last three books I wrote, SETTING was the spark! I hadn't thought about that before, but it makes sense. So nice call, Jessie! Apparently you had it figured out before I did.

Iain-- :) No, I don't think everyone has plots coming out their ears. That must be your strong suit!

Leigh Ann-- You made me giggle.

Anonymous said...

What will you thing of next?!?!

Jessica said...

Love this post! I never thought of which of the three my strength lies. For me I think it's plot. My setting for the story has changed, as have the characters (in very major ways). But my plot - its stayed the same and only gotten stronger. I don't always get story ideas, but when I do think of something I find myself struck by the idea of what the story is about.