#SaysTheEditor Refining Your Plot for Character Growth


I’d wanted to read this one particular book for awhile now. Rock Fiction; it’s always in my wheelhouse. And the author is someone I recommend without hesitation when people ask. Win-win, right?

A quick check of the library showed that they had a copy available on Overdrive, so one click later, I was reading away. And quite surprised by what I found. Not in a good way, sad to say.

The problem, in the end, was a simple one: the plot wasn’t quite refined enough, and as a result the character growth suffered. Whereas most books fit the formula of “this is a story about _____, who wanted _____.” this story… wasn’t.

Oh, it was a story about Jane. And it was a romance, so presumably Jane wanted Dick, right? (Pardon the pun. Oh, Lordy, pardon that pun. But it was either use Dick or Tarzan!)

But… Jane also wanted to make music. And run a small business. And then Jane wanted Dick AND Tom. And then she wanted to be rid of past ghosts. And to be moral support for a friend going through a bad time.

Did you get whiplash from all that wanting?

The upshot here is that Jane never really wanted any one thing, which was pretty funny considering that Jane’s first arrival in the book portrayed her as a woman who knew exactly what she wanted in life (or at least in sex partners) and didn’t hesitate to go get it.

For me, I’d have liked it if the story had been framed with Jane’s underlying drive being her music. Hey, I’m a lover of Rock Fiction, remember? But that would explain a lot of the motivation for what comes next: the tragedy that drove her from the stage, her fears and PTSD, and it would even frame how her love for Dick and then Tom unfolded and helped her overcome her issues.

Best of all, the story would not have needed much tweaking. Just a sentence at the beginning and a wider triumph at the end. And maybe some more exploration of her fears as they related to her music career as the story unfolded.

Notice that? I’m NOT saying it needed to be rewritten or restructured. All that is already there. What was lacking was that bottom part of the sentence, “This was a story about Jane, who wanted _____” It would have been so easy to do, and it would have taken all these various elements of the plot and tied them together. Not necessarily with a neat bow — I hate those — but in a very rich sense that allowed for maximum character growth of our heroine.

Ultimately, when we read, that’s what we’re looking for: that character growth, that beauty that comes out of pain. Readers may not realize it, but the underlying adventure that we seek is one of change and fulfillment. Of coming into one’s own. Of who the character (and, by extension, us) becomes as they move from Point A to Point B.

This book lacked that. It’s not surprising I found it lacking. But it came oh, so close…

Go ahead. Push yourself. Don’t come close; that’s another way of saying “I fell short.”

And, as always, if you need me, I’m right here to help guide you.


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