Stubborn reading (was Re: YA/Children's/Adult Books)

Charles Butler hannibal at
Fri May 2 03:57:25 EDT 2003

> >Maybe it's a distinction between character-driven and plot-driven books?
> >Anyone?

This is something I asked DWJ about in interview. Would it count as fair use
(should Peter Lang's copyright lawyer be a member of this list) if I quoted
her reply?

CB: Your books are often very densely and intricately plotted: Hexwood and
Archer's Goon (1984) for instance. Yet character is also extremely
important. Which do you feel is the greater force in the writing of a
novel - are the characters driving it forward by being who they are, or is
the plot driving it by needing to be resolved?

DWJ: It's a nice distinction really: I'm not at all clear which is the
stronger force. The driving force as far as I see it is me wanting to know
what happens next - which is plot I suppose. Although I do know roughly what
is going to happen in a very sketchy way when I start, I deliberately don't
know what happens in detail until I'm ready to write it - literally ready to
write it, with my pen poised over the paper.

People are very important though, and oddly enough the two books you
mentioned, Hexwood and Archer's Goon, were both books in which I did start
with the characters. Particularly with Archer's Goon I hardly knew what they
were going to do from one page to the next. They kept taking me by surprise,
which does suggest, at least in those books, that it is the characters
driving them. I don't think that's always the case, but the people are
important, yes.


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