Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Character vs. Plot

My husband went to a seminar on writing software specs yesterday. He very kindly brought home his notes to see how they'd apply to fiction-writing. It was kind of fun discussing character and plot as they might appear in computer code.

If you write a list of steps to be taken and instructions to be followed, is that a plot-driven story? It's also well-specified software. But what if you know the beginning and end but you're deep in investigation of what's going wrong--like when you're assigned to fix a bug by writing a new algorithm? My husband pointed out you can't specify the path till you know what's wrong. I suggested maybe that's like a character-driven story--you need to know the characters before you can plan the plot.

In the end, of course, you still write an organized list--a computer program, a story with beginning middle and end. But maybe even software engineers have to work in different ways at different times, and maybe fixing a bug is like working with character-driven code.

Once I've finished the housework I'll go back to fixing bugs in the novel I'm writing.


Anonymous said...

Interesting comparison! Mysteries of all kinds, technological or fictional, must be well-written.-- Jean H.

Ann Best said...

Something has to happen to someone. So it's character first. At least that's the way I see it. Hope you got the "bugs" out of your novel.
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