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Donna Russo Morin | Characters are the soul of the plot; plot is the receptacle of the soul.


That’s the answer I give whenever asked the timeless question, “which is more important, character or plot?” And invariably I get a look of skeptical confusion. But to be truthful, we must recognize that not only can one not exist without the other, but that one cannot be successful without the other…a good character can not carry a book without a stirring story to breathe in.

When we fall in love with a character, it is not only his or her instinctive traits that endear them to us, but their responses to the situations in which they find themselves. Quite frankly, Scarlett O’Hara (one of my favorite heroines of all time) would simply have been deemed a demanding diva if she acted the way she did under normal circumstances. If the war hadn’t broken out and if her struggle did not become one of survival for herself and her family, she would have become a character worthy of reality show depiction and abhorrence.

Jeanne du Bois, the protagonist of my recent historical fiction release, THE COURTIER’S SECRET, would have been considered no more than a spoiled brat were her father not a controlling and abusive man, did she not live in a society that afforded her no control over the course of her own life.

Like Scarlett, Jeanne is flawed and her flaws are laid bare for all to see. Yet it is despite these flaws, and because of them, that she is able to defy the standards of her era, learn the art of the sword in secret and use that skill beside the Musketeers, when disguised as a man, to fight against those who would harm the Queen she loves. Without the construct of her circumstances, she would be deemed a disruptive harridan and not worthy of our interest or our concern.

During the research process for my historical novels, I know I’ve hit upon a noteworthy time in history when life altering events occur one after the other. At the end of the writing process, I realize I’ve created a character worthy of readers’ attention when I begin to miss her as soon as I’ve typed ‘the end.’

To the great characters that have been drawn by the mighty pen of writers throughout time, I raise my glass. And to the vagaries of life, both harsh and harmonious, in which they reside, I take a giant swig.

Donna Russo Morin

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7 comments posted.

Re: Donna Russo Morin | Characters are the soul of the plot; plot is the receptacle of the soul.

I read mostly contemporary fiction, but I love to see a "princess" actually come out fighting when she's needed to!
(Kelli Jo Calvert 4:21pm February 9, 2009)

I agree with you 100%. A character is
just that, a description. The plot is
what brings them to life. Without a
strong union of two quality elements,
you have a mundane work. You seem
to have picked a rich time period to
work with.
(Patricia Barraclough 10:36pm February 9, 2009)

Nice post, Donna.
(Julie Robinson 1:28am February 10, 2009)

Interesting blog! I love to read historical fiction because the characters and plots are so fascinating.
(Cheryl Castings 2:08pm February 11, 2009)

I've been thinking about this post
since yesterday. It kind of bugs me
when people ask if I'm character or
plot driven. Your answer is a nice
compromise. I agree. One cannot
exist without the other. To have a
character with no plot to further his
character growth makes for a stagnant
story, so to speak. What comes to
mind is a short story which is basically
one big sex scene and no character
development. Thanks for the insight.
(Julie Robinson 9:15pm February 11, 2009)

What you say about Scarlett O'Hara is very true. The historical circumstances that occured to her character are what made her become such a strongly remembered heroine.
(Jody Faltys 4:27pm February 13, 2009)

Hi Donna, sounds like you've got a good balance figured out between plot and character. Happy writing and reading!
(Allison Hol 4:04am February 14, 2009)

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