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Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
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Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  419 ratings  ·  64 reviews
What's more important to a story: a gripping plot or compelling characters? Literary-minded novelists argue in favor of character-based novels while commercial novelists argue in favor of plot-based stories, but the truth of the matter is this: The best fiction is rich in both.

Enter Plot Versus Character. This hands-on guide to creating a well-rounded novel embraces both

Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 16th 2010 by Writer's Digest Books (first published October 13th 2010)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  419 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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This book had a lot of great tips and an excellent breakdown set up approach. It was very helpful in my Speculative Fiction class at SNHU. I did feel that some parts got a BIT long winded, but still a great resource to come back to again and again.

4 Solid Stars
Nayad Monroe
This book's premise is that writers can be divided into two groups: those who naturally consider character first when creating a novel, and those who consider plot first. The idea is to understand which area is one's strength, and then learn how to improve on the other. The book explains both character development and plot development in detail. It offers a basic framework for each, and shows how a character's inner journey can work with the external plot to create a strong, interesting book wit ...more
Thomas Edmund
Nov 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I was very interested to get a chance to read Plot Vs Character after enjoying 50 first pages (a later product from Gerke) It is with some irony that PVC starts awkward and repetitive, I didn't count how many times Gerke tried to convince be that EITHER YOU ARE PLOT OR CHARACTER DRIVEN but if he used one more metaphor, I may have been paying my brovis for a new book.

Luckily after the intro the book improves. G does do a good job stitching the ideas of character and plot to a coherent whole. The
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Plot vs Character by Gerke is a handy book for both the plot-first author and the character-first author. The book is meaty and thought-provoking, guiding writers through developing both the character and the plot of your story. Gerke teaches at conferences around the U.S. and years ago, he helped me in my own writing, specifically learning the "three act structure," which he covers in-depth in this book as well. This is a very well-rounded book to help any author at any stage cement the foundat ...more
Margaret Metz
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I love the way Jeff Gerke writes. It feels like I'm having a conversation with him. It's also great the way he provides a lot of examples from books and movies to illustrate his points.

I think I am more of a panster than a plotter, but this gave me insight on what it takes to have a great story filled with amazing characters. It's a terrific reference and I will probably come back to it often.
Kristen Stieffel
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Novelists
Shelves: writing
This book is a must-read for novelists. Whether your strength is characterization or plot, this book will help you manage your weakness by developing the other. I re-read the second half of this book (plot) every time I start a new book, because plotting is my weakness. I always come away with a ton of ideas that will strengthen the story and make it more engaging to readers.
Sarah Sundin
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In Plot vs. Character, Jeff Gerke puts a new spin on writing while still creating a book that would be excellent for new writers. Rather than telling all writers to work one way, Gerke recognizes our inherent differences and helps us learn from each other. This character-driven writer found great new ways to look at plotting while strengthening character development as well. I know I've found a good craft book when story ideas ricochet in my brain, and they did while reading Plot vs. Character. ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
I gleaned so much from this book. It's one to keep on the shelf for sure and I know I'll be referencing it as I plunge into my novel writing. Full of examples and opportunities for brainstorming. Highly recommend to anyone wanting to write a novel.
Em Kennedy
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
It had some good points, but rambled on so badly. Very difficult to read. I picked it up to help me develop better plots for my fiction books, but I can't say it really helped. A different kind of book, though. Unique.
Andrew LeBlanc
Oct 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Books like this are all more or less the same. If you trimmed all of the padding (and they are all at least 75% fiberfill), all of these books would be exactly the same. You could probably skim one of these exactly once in your whole life, and get something out of it, but beyond that, they probably harm more than they help. I made the mistake of reading two books like this at once, and I think I've damaged my brain. I'm also going to have a heck of a time remembering the specifics, because the t ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Plot Versus Character: A Balanced approach to Writing Great Fiction, by Jeff Gerke,
reviewed by Cultivar, The How-to-write-a book blog

This is a case where, the writing is simple to the point of basic, and the author, or author’s voice, truly annoys me, but there is still some wonderfully valuable information. Primarily, that both matter, and a novel that neglects one of these areas will really suffer.

Just understand that you’ll have to sift through gems like, “Humans are Re
Debra Daniels-zeller
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
I've read so many books about writing fiction that finding a gem in the same advice is getting difficult but Jeff Gerke has written about character and plot in a unique way. This book is divided into character and plot. Gerke tackles character first because you can't have plot without knowing your characters. I liked his sections on "the knot" or your main character's dilemma or problem, how to find it and how it affects the "moment of truth" a character faces. Also, this book stands out from ot ...more
Plot versus character is a very interesting and useful work for a novelist who is just beginning. It is less useful for established authors, however, it is valuable to consider the role of character and plot as they interact.

The author has an interesting style that is part conversational and part a irreverent. This is a quick read and there isn't too much filler.

Rating: three out of five stars.
Michelle Cornish
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read The Irresistible Novel also by Jeff Gerke, and it was so good I wanted to read more of Jeff's craft books. This one did not disappoint. I'm still not sure if I'm a plot first or character first writer, but this book opened my eyes to new ideas in both areas. I can't wait to start planning my next book! Jeff offers many tips for improving character arcs as well as what's happening in your story so that character and plot combine to form the best story possible.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A system, but not a strict one

This book kept getting recommended to me so I bought it and read it. I followed the exercises for a new project and I definitely like the results. I hope I get the opportunity to take the author's class in person, but in th meantime the book introduces the complete system.
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
This is a fairly well-written book about how to write fiction. The author, Jeff Gerke, provides good advice about two different areas -- how to create good characters, and how to create a good plot.

Gerke begins by positing, and I would say I agree, that all writers fall into one of two basic types: plot-based or character-based. For plot-based writers, the external events of the story (i.e., the plot) come easily, but crafting good characters is difficult. For character-based writers, making re
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_in_2019
A lot to chew on here.
Chelsea Lauren
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a fantastic writing book and resource!
This is a FAN-TAS-TIC book for aspiring novelists. I highly recommend!
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-craft
Gerke begins by identifying novelists as one of two types: character-focused and plot-focused writers. By focusing on one aspect and ignoring the other, however, Plot vs Characterwriters often end up with one of two stories: rich, interesting characters who do nothing, or stereotypical, shallow characters saving the world. Though he encourages readers to know which type of writer they are, Gerke’s book discusses both sides and is mapped out to take a writer through the entire process – from char ...more
Nov 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I’ve always been a proponent of continuing professional development, regardless of whether I was a computer programmer, a corporate director, or now, a writer. And, of course, I love books. So I look for books that helps me develop my skills. That’s what I found in Jeff Gerke’s Plot versus Character.

I’ve taught both Characterization and Plot at writing conferences, so I don’t consider myself a novice when it comes to either, but I learned some new techniques for both. Gerke begins with an illus
Lee Libro
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Jeff Gerke's book Plot Versus Character is a no-nonsense guide to help writers recognize where their strength lies and implement tools with which to balance both plot and character development.

If your strong suit is creating characters and you want to gain an edge in your plot writing, Gerke offers clear-cut exercises on how to do so. If you already know how to write gripping plots, but are weak in character development, this book will show you how to seed elements into your characters' makeup s
C.O. Bonham
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writers-help
this is the most helpful book that I think I have ever read about writing fiction. It isn't enough to say that you need well written characters if you never tell how to write characters well.

In this book Jeff Gerke does. Plot versus Character contains two parts. Part one is all about Character creation. I loved this part because I write people very poorly. In this part Gerke takes the character down to a core personality and explains how to add layers until a fleshed out person emerges.

Part two
Judy Croome
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every once in a while, there’s a book that’s lain unread in my TBR pile which, I discover when I eventually read it, is worth its weight in gold. “Plot versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction” by Jeff Gerke is one of those books.

With flashes of natural humour, a sound logical approach and clear, easy-to-read language, Gerke teaches writers how to balance great character sketches with page-turning plots. He shows how both plot and character must be integrated to provide the
Lisa M
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
Are you a character-based writer, or a plot-based writer? You can strengthen your weakness and play to your strength with this book. Plot Versus Character takes you through the process of developing your characters, and then developing your plot from your characters. It a very helpful, step-by-step process.

One note--characters are developed through the Myers-Briggs' 16 personality types. The author recommends using Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, so you might want
Maureen Lang
Oct 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Is your strength in writing a plot driven novel, or one that’s character driven? Either way, this book affirms our natural strengths while offering a wider consideration of elements to polish what we’re already doing. And for that area in which we want to improve, there are a variety of exercises to help us along the way.

“The core of any novel built with Plot versus Character is the main character’s inner journey.” That quote is taken from the plot section, so you can see how easily this author
Marta Perry
Dec 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
With PLOT VERSUS CHARACTER, A BALANCED APPROACH TO WRITING GREAT FICTION, Jeff Gerke presents an answer to the age-old question of writers: which comes first, character or plot? Whether you love developing complex characters but struggle to find something for them to do, or excel at developing intricate plots, only to find your characters are made of cardboard, you’ll find solutions to your problem in Gerke’s book.

Gerke’s entertaining, friendly style, full of concrete examples, will keep you rea
Lisa Annesley
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
Character is plot. If your strength as a writer is characterization, you'll find help here in developing your plot. If your strength is plot, you'll find help in developing your characters. Gerke takes you through the process of first developing your characters, and then your plot. By the end of the book, if you done your homework as you gone along, you can have fleshed out your characters and come up with the plot for your novel.

Note: Gerke recommends Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Chara
Morgan Busse
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Plot versus Character is unlike most books I have read on writing. Most go on to detail the nuts and bolts of writing, but Jeff gets to the heart of the matter: the story. He pinpoints exactly what will make your main character relatable: the inner conflict (or knot as he calls it). Step by step he helps you create that flawed character.

But Jeff doesn't stop there. He also shows you how to weave the inner journey of your character into the plot. You character will not only be racing through the
This is a decent reference to kickstart your own writing.

The content is well-structured, and gives you actionable steps to creating your own layered characters (though hold the phone if you're sceptical of personality-type psychology, like "Please Understand Me II" by David Keirsey) as well as to craft a basic three-act plot structure. Unfortunately Gerke's plot examples follow a very typical American-Hollywood line, so you may like them if you're trying to develop a mass-market genre-fiction bl
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