There has never been a time in my memory when I wasn’t writing. I still have my first finished story (Starlite The New Born Unicorn. It’s four pages long, mostly consisting of crayon scribbles). And yet, almost twenty years later, I only have one complete manuscript (no unicorns in this one), and a slew of half-finished or even barely-started attempted stories. It seems appropriate at this point to ask, why is that? But the truth is, I’m pretty well aware.
Part of the reason is because I hadn’t yet started working with this guy , a great friend of mine who broke me out of my writing style, which was well suited for the online text-based RPGs from which it developed but not for an actual novel. But really, the majority of the reason is the fact that my works have always been entirely character-centric rather than plot-driven.
I don’t imagine this is unusual. Far from it, I think this happens to a lot of writers. Now, knowing this is the case, I can plan accordingly and push myself to work through my weak areas. That is the only reason that I have even a single finished manuscript.
But it is interesting to think about why this is. For me the answer is simple. I love people. I find human beings fascinating. From celebrities to historical figures to that kid I met once at an event in college (yes, please DO friend me on Facebook, I want to know everything about you), I am endlessly amazed by what people do, why they do it, and how they have gotten to this point in their lives.
I like to think that this translates into strong character development in my work, but I’m realistic enough to know that’s not always the case. I still fall into the same traps and tropes used all over my genre. But what it does give me is the passion to start writing a story, because when these characters come to me , I fall in love with them. At that point I feel compelled to write about them, which hasn’t been great for completing anything, but at least I know that all those fragments of novels are there, waiting for me, now that I have developed the discipline to complete a manuscript.
Moreover, I wouldn’t trade my love of people, my love of characters, for anything. Because you can have a fabulous storyline, but if the characters fall flat, then it’s not going to matter. Conversely, you can have a relatively unexciting plot, but if the characters are engaging, readers will still be engaged. This isn’t astrophysics. I’m not making any shocking revelations here. But I do think it is important, as a writer, to be aware of where you fall on the scale. After all, awareness is the first step toward change.