Which is more important, plot or character?
Oh, how we love our binaries…and this one is about as useless as a lot of binaries. I like mysteries, I like a good puzzle, and that’s “plot”. I love a good character, and will follow a well loved character through the most bizarre and unlikely of plots. What I’ve noticed, for ME, is this: to come back to a book again and again, to buy up all the books in a series, to imagine alternate endings and what-ifs, I need to love the characters. The most fascinating plot in the world won’t hold my attention if I don’t care about any of the characters, but I will follow beloved characters doing the most mundane things. And those characters may not be “likeable” or “relatable” or whatever gatekeeping term is in vogue: they have to be interesting, in one way or another. (For me, Iago, who had no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, is the star of Othelllo.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just see if there are any new Good Omens fanfic about braiding hair.
Full disclosure: I’m a white anglo person. Which means I have a whole lot of privilege in the place where I live, and a lot of other places too. I don’t always see it, but privilege is like oxygen: I don’t have to see it to benefit, and you don’t really appreciate it til you don’t have it. And lately, I’ve been seeing it on the writers’ corner of twitter, and it’s about something pretty important: names.
I love the #WritingCommunity, and it’s generally a great place to hang out. But this keeps popping up as advice:
Keep your characters relatable! Give them short, easy names, like Jen or Kate or Dan or Taylor. Otherwise readers won’t be able to remember who’s who.
And fellow white anglo people, can we not? The assumption that the best names are short, uber anglo names? And that short, uber anglo names are the most relatable? On a planet of more than seven billion people with thousands of languages? No. And no, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with you giving your characters said names – it’s the assumption that those names are the most *relatable*, that anything else is too hard or too weird or whatever. It’s the Daenerys Targaryen test: if THAT name isn’t too weird or unrelatable for literally millions of people, neither is anything else.