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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

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  390 ratings  ·  59 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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4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  390 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
D.J. Edwardson
Sep 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This book offers a good foundation for writing solid, compelling fiction. The character building methods get the most emphasis and the plot is then developed around that inner journey. There are plenty of pertinent examples woven throughout and the best parts of the novel involve the discussion of three act structure and character arc.

The book was helpful and should be useful to authors seeking to improve either their plotting or character building skills. However, in the final analysis, the aut
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
Monica Rodriguez
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, revision
Excellent guide for building a story with well-developed characters and a page-turning plot. Good examples, and explicit explanation, taking you through all the parts of a story. Starts with the development of characters then moves on to plot, moving you through the big moments in a story. This works no matter how developed your story idea is - if you just have an inkling, you can start at the beginning. If you already have started your story, you can look through to see where you might be lacki ...more
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
Natalie Walters
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a book every writer should have on their shelf. If you struggle developing dimensial characters with a purpose for existing on your page -or- you struggle developing a plot worthy of the internal and external growth of your characters THIS book will guide you through a series of exercises giving you the skills you need to write the next great story.

This will be my go-to book before every new project. Jeff Gerke offers examples of current movies and novels to support the ideas outlined in
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
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
A.L. Sowards
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, nonfiction
Books on writing are a little like books on raising children: worth reading and pondering, but in the end you have to do what feels right and works for you. Overall, I thought this book was useful and well-written. Will following the author's suggestions result in slightly formulaic fiction? Maybe. But his main point is golden: good fiction has well-developed characters doing interesting things. Any writer missing one or the other is going to have serious holes in their book. Recommended for fic ...more
K.S. Moore
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Higher level than a beginner-writer book (which I loved!), this book was a great comparative of the two main kinds of writers. I'm definitely a character-focused writer. This book helped identify and strengthen my weaknesses while still encouraging my current focus. I also shared it with a friend who's a plot-focused writer and he said the same things. So, no matter what kind of writer you are, this book is a big help!
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