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Elizabeth (Alaska) Do you prefer to read for character development over plot? Which books have you read that stand out for you with character development. Are there authors you chose who are better at this than others?

message 2: by Rose (new)

Rose (roseo) My favorite quote sums it all up for me.

"Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul."
— Joyce Carol Oates

message 3: by Nadia (last edited Jul 17, 2009 11:28AM) (new)

Nadia A (bagambo) I read for both, too! If I am not engaging with the characters then the book is not working for me. If the storyline does not appeal to me, then I don't read the book. One example of a book that I believe has both great plot and wonderful characters is, Beyond the Great Indoors by Ingvar Ambjornsen. This book is brilliant and provides plenty of character development which helps the story move along at such a great pace. I hate it when the book's plot sounds amazing, but then when you start the book you have no interest in the characters - that was how I felt about Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I just did not care for the main characters as much as I would have liked (and both suffered a great deal, yet something about them did not draw me in enough to fully empathize with them).

By the by, that is a brilliant quote Rose!

message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I read for both. Without a decent plot, what you've got is a character study, not a novel. With only a plot, who cares what happens?

message 5: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) hmmmm - thats a difficult one - looking at my all time favourites I have to sit on the fence I'm afraid.

Virgina Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar & Katherine Mansfields short stories are some of my absolute favourites for the psychological rendering of character. - In fact - I love the modernist literature for this - I don't think characters have been drawn so well as in the modernist era.

BUT - I also love stories like Dodie Smith's 'I Capture the Castle', Maughams's 'The Painted Veil', Rebecca Wells's 'The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood', Golden's 'Memoirs of a Geisha' etc etc, which I MUST love for the powerful and enchanting stories they tell.

I'm afraid I'm no help to you at all am I!


message 6: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I think I'm much more of a plot person. I, of course, have to have characters that I can empathize with, but the empathy doesn't have to run too deep for me. I can't stand books without much plot (which is part of why I don't like short stories). I love crime stories, and typically, the characters in them are pretty much the same all over.

However, when a book can skillfully combine an engaging plot and amazing characters, I'm in heaven. Books like Poisonwood Bible, The Red Tent, Secret Life of Bees, The Book Thief, Gargoyle, Chasing Fireflies all are amazing books because they manage to have both plot and characters that I can sink my teeth into.

message 7: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) This is a great discussion, thanks Elizabeth!

I would have to say that I care more about character development than plot.

I love a great plot, but the plot can only be great if I truly care about the characters involved, and I can only truly care about the characters involved when there is great character development! Does that make sense? The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of a great story is the characters and how I related to their feelings and emotions throughout the book.

I think an excellent example of great character development is Ahab's Wife Or, The Star-gazer A Novel. I am always promoting this book! I felt for this character during all of her ups and downs. I think Sena Jeter Naslund is truly gifted at creating great character development. Her other book Abundance A Novel of Marie Antoinette wasn't as enjoyable to me as Ahab's Wife, but she still created a Marie Antoinette in her book that was vulnerable, yet strong willed. J.K. Rowling is another great example of character development. I adored Ron, Hermione and Harry and I adored them because of great character development.

By the way, I totally agree with Rose's quote and I love Joyce Carol Oates! Has anyone read Blonde? Talk about getting into another person's skin!

Elizabeth (Alaska) Monica, I absolutely loved Ahab's Wife, and I, too, have recommended it.

An author I've started to explore is Louise Erdrich. After reading The Master Butchers Singing Club, a fellow recommended I read her in order of books published because some of the characters repeat, or their is family history that carries over to another novel. This Erdrich fan described her as "putting her characters through a lot." An apt description. There are no cardboard characters in an Erdrich novel. These are no plot driven page turners, but her characters don't just sit around and chew the fat either.

message 9: by Holli (new)

Holli I think I completely agree with Jennifer W.'s post.....thanks for summingmy feelings up too! LOL

message 10: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Hehe, you're welcome Holli. :)

Elizabeth (Alaska) So those of you who do really like character development - do you have favorite books or authors?

message 12: by Monica (new)

Monica (imelda85) Thanks for the suggestion, Elizabeth! I will be sure to check out Louise Erdrich.

A perfect light-hearted read showing excellent character development is The Matchmaker of Perigord A Novel by Julia Stuart. It is such a sweet, hilarious book about a small town in France and about a barber turned matchmaker. The author creates such endearing characters, and I laughed so hard just by reading their day to day lives in that little village!

message 13: by Rose (new)

Rose (roseo) Jacob Jankowski says: "I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." InWater for Elephantsby Sara Gruen just grabs my attention from the start and I want to know him and his life.

Oscar Wao, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican nerd who's still waiting for his first kiss. I am taken in. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

At times stern, at other times patient, Olive Kitteridge makes me curious about her world.
Olive Kitteridge A Novel in Stories

message 14: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jul 17, 2009 05:53PM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) OK, I just added Oscar Wao to my wish list. I have been avoiding it, I don't know why. But we often like the same books, Rose, and I'll trust you yet again.

Elizabeth (Alaska) Teri, do you think that sometimes a person is not who they think they are? Or they want to be more/better, but can't quite make the grade? Is it possible the author describes the former, when the person turns out to be the latter?

message 16: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Rose, I'm going to be a bit of a devil's advocate, perhaps. I haven't finished Water For Elephants, haven't made it far at all actually, and while that line grabs me, it's really the prologue that takes place in the circus riot that really makes me want to know 'what lead to this?' I'm sure that's one of those books that'll be among the books I listed above, if I can ever get to finishing it.

Of course, the driving force for any of us reading or liking a book probably stems from what we want. For you it's to know the character, for me it's to know what obstacles and triumphs that character is going to come up against. Hope that makes sense! :)

Elizabeth (Alaska) For me, character development is describing the human condition. Some people are stronger/weaker than others. Who are they, how do they behave? This is what, for me, makes a book leave a lasting impression.

message 18: by Rose (new)

Rose (roseo) I can sit on a bench, coffee shop table at the window and just watch people! I guess I have always been fascinated at the diverseness of humanity.

This brought to mind an interesting thought. I wonder if readers who love "characters" in a book are good listeners to people and their "stories" in real life?

Elizabeth (Alaska) Rose wrote: "I can sit on a bench, coffee shop table at the window and just watch people! I guess I have always been fascinated at the diverseness of humanity."

My husband will tell me stories about those people. See that couple over there? She's . . .

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