09 June, 2011

Do You Have To Like The Plot To Enjoy A Book?

In the past two weeks I posted "Do You Have To Like The Main Character To Enjoy A Book?" and "Do You Have To Like The Setting To Enjoy A Book?" and now we come to the third and final question.

Which is about plot.

I consider plot to be the No. 1 most important thing when it comes to a book, in any genre, above both character and setting. It is the glue that holds things together: characters must do things to drive the story, or things must happen to them that cause them to act. Both must be realistic, or at the very least possible.

Some plots are complex, with several storylines that all intertwine and affect each other. Other plots are more like adventure stories, where the small group of characters try to overcome obstacles as they either literally or figuratively travel from A to B.

Some plots cover a long stretch of time, even hundreds of years, while others cover less than a single day. Other plots go back in time, weaving in things that happened before the beginning of story.

Some plots focus on the characters. Other plots focus more on the story itself, and what happens to those characters.

And so on. There are also major plot issues that come up again and again--holes, loose ends, deus ex machina endings, (I utterly despise it when things get resolved just because the story had been set up in a way for it to be an ugly situation otherwise) twists for shock factor, repetitiveness, stories that have been told many times before, etc.

So. How important is plot to you? Do you think it is more or less important than characters or setting?

What kind of plot do you prefer? Do you like complex stories, with lots of characters? Do you prefer stories that focus on the characters, or ones that are driven by the plot itself? What are plot issues that really bother you in a story?

-----The Golden Eagle
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Rogue Mutt said...

The plot is the story. So obviously you have to like it to like the book.

Laila Knight said...

For me there has to be an interesting plot. Loving characters can only hold my interest for so long. However, I've seen it work the other way around when it comes to romance. There's comfort in knowing two people will eventually come together,and I've found myself skimming ahead past the plot...shame on me.

Heather said...

Usually if I don't like the plot the book doesn't make it to the check out stand ~ or online cart ~ with me. So I guess I do have to like the plot.

J.L. Campbell said...

Give a me a complicated main character and an interesting plot. The twists in a story keep me reading as well as seeing how the character deals with each situation. The books I remember for a longer time are those that had unexpected and uncommon situations.

GigglesandGuns said...

Plot and character go hand in hand for me. I have to have both.

KatieO said...

Plot has to hook you. As much as you like a character, you don't want to read about them, say, watching t.v. all day ;-)

laughingwolf said...

characters + plot = story; nuff said!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Plots are important to me, BUT the character's chemisty needs to be there as well. If there are weak characters it doesn't matter how great the plot is.

Susan Fields said...

The thing that really bothers me is when the characters do things they wouldn't really do just to serve the plot. Lately I've really been noticing how frustrating it is when the mc won't tell other characters what's going on and just keeps everything to herself, of course leading to further complications further down the road.

Elena Solodow said...

Voice is the major decider for me. I don't mind following a character around doing nothing if they make it exciting and unique enough. Plot is definitely up there though. There always comes a point in a book where you want to know you're reading it for some reason.

M Pax said...

Plot drives the story even if the character and setting are wonderful. I get bored if I see the whole story before the end of chapter one and I get bored with repetitive plots. Something happens, character gets caught, character figures out how to escape, repeat. Again and again.

Old Kitty said...

I do like complex, convoluted and ever so fiendish plots. I think that's why I love my mysteries - my Agatha Christies for instance. Another is Charles Palliser - his Quincunx is seriously unhinged - who cares about the characters - what's this quincunx all about!??! LOL!!

Oh but of course I also love it when plot and character and voice and everything mesh together beautifully.

Take care

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm not sure you do. For example, some of my favorite books--Mrs. Dalloway by Virgina Woolf, Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen-- both had very little plot and I loved them. However, I often need to be in the mood for a book without plot. Most of the time, I need a goal or a mystery to be solved.

KarenG said...

I don't have to enjoy the plot to like the book but I DO have to like the MC!

Carol Riggs said...

Plots are truly important, because I may give up reading it halfway through if nothing interesting happens, but then again, if I had to choose one or the other, I'd pick an interesting character with not much of a plot over a boring character with lotsa plot. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

When I read a book blurb, I always look for a plot that interests me. Wonderful characters may bring me back for a reread, but plot is first. I recently put down a book I bought after about 75 pages because the plot moved so slowly I kept looking ahead to see if anything was ever going to happen.

Jemi Fraser said...

Good questions!!!

I'm all about the characters - but plot is so important too. I think I'd put characters first though!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Plot is very important! Too many holes and it's ruined.

Rob-bear said...

A story without a good plot is like pot roast without the beef. A poor plot is like leather instead of meat. Surely you get my point.

Jennie Bailey said...

I like the characters to drive the story! And I like my books meaty, with lots going on. Twist at the end is always fun too! But I'm big on the actual writing. If the writing is poor, I can't get past it. No matter how intriguing the plot sounds on the back of the book, once I open it I need good, solid writing to keep me there. Great post!

Theres just life said...

I like a good plot with twist and turns but sometimes I just can't get my mind to focus and I get lost. In those cases I would read something lite with no much plot.
But one thing I have to have is strong feelings for the characters...love them or hate them...I will keep going. If they are wishy washy or flat, I can't read the book.

Pamela Jo

Margo Benson said...

To me, the plot is the most important thing. However, if the writing is superb, I don't mind a slower or weaker plot. Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner moves elegantly and slowly, but I find the writing exquiste.
If, though, a complex plot, great charaters AND great writing are present, I'm in heaven!

Talli Roland said...

I'm going to say yes, I do have to like the plot to even buy the book. If not... I'm not going to pay anything for it.

Anonymous said...

Me too and MC joint with good writing a close second. Setting not so important.

Charles Gramlich said...

depends on the meaning of "enjoy." To really get satisfaction from a book I need a decent plot. However, I love good prose and have read books with boring or very little plot just for the music of the language. I enjoy them at some level, though not the highest level.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I don't know if plot is most important for me - if I don't buy the characters, I don't buy the plot. But if the plots is bad it's also really hard to enjoy. Really, though, I'm much more of a character girl. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much open to anything, as long as its written well and keeps moving. I just read a Chic Lit book (review on my blog) and gave it a five star review. It was a great read. Not a genre I read, but a great book just the same.

Alleged Author said...

Yes! I definitely have to like the plot to like the book. There are some books that seem like they don't have an ounce of plot. Those were the ones I stopped reading after a couple chapters.

Robyn Campbell said...

Plot is well, what the story is. If I don't like the plot, I don't dig the story and I toss the book into the not evah gonna be read pile. On a side note, I write for plot where most writers write for characterization. :-)

Sangu said...

I love cool, twisty plots with really clever details but ultimately it's the characters and relationships that matter most to me. As long as the plot makes sense and doesn't seem contrived/stupid, I can handle anything - so long as I love the characters!

Miss Gwenea said...

Hi, I have a small favour to ask! Tomorrow is my friend Milisande birthday. I noticed you were following her, and so I was wondering if you would mind sending her a comment tomorrow, wishing her a happy birthday, as a special gift to her. I'm trying to get as many comments for her as possible. Thanks!


ali said...

I kind of liked THE SECRET YEAR, and I'm not sure it had a plot, lol. But otherwise, I agree! Though I think character can bump plot from the top spot depending on how well it's done.

Flying high in the sky.... said...

plots are very important!! very important.. like THE GODFATHER...but sometimes i have also felt drawn to characters and simple plots like Eric Seagal's Love Story.... but i would still go with the "plot" ....too many characters are cumbersome... so some good strong characters with a strong plot makes all the difference .. like Da Vinci's Code, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead...

Elliot Grace said...

...I think you have to enjoy the plot, and the voice, in order to finish the book. The character is a different beast altogether. One can despise the MC, yearn for them to perish, and continue reading in order to see the story's outcome.

Great post, Eagle!


The Golden Eagle said...

Rogue: I wouldn't say that the plot is the entire story--although I do consider it the most important part of a book.

Laila: Sometimes it is nice to know the main character won't die or meet some dire fate. :P

Heather: Same here!

J.L.: I tend to remember books with uncommon situations, too.

Gigglesandguns: I put more emphasis on plot--but both have to fit the other!

KatieO: LOL. Nope!

Laughingwolf: If only it was so easy to write, right? :P

Michael: I agree. If the characters are weak, then the plot doesn't really matter. The characters have to stand for themselves.

Susan: That can be frustrating. It's so inevitable when something bad happens because s/he kept a secret, and takes away some of interest that might have been there if she had told the other characters.

Elena: Voice is definitely a factor. I've really enjoyed some books because of great voice!

M: That kind of plot bores me, too. :P

Old Kitty: For some reason, I don't read many mysteries--I like my plots complex, but Science Fiction/Fantasy's more my genre. :D

Quincunx sounds like a great book!

Me, too. :)

Clarissa: Mood changes my opinion of plot, too.

KarenG: I don't, actually--although it certainly helps my overall opinion!

Carol: LOL. I'd probably go with the opposite.

Susan: That's usually the breakoff point for me, too. If something doesn't happen FAST, then I get bored. But it can't be infodumps or plots that ram a bunch of events together, just because the MC needs to learn things. I hate it when that happens.

Jemi: Thanks!

I put plot first; but both are necessary for a good book!

Alex: Definitely.

The Golden Eagle said...

Rob-bear: Yup, I get your point. :) And I agree!

Jennie: Writing style is something I've been focusing more on, lately; before I really started to get going with the writing thing, the style/quality didn't bother me as much. Now it's something I notice. :P


Pamela Jo: Sometimes complex plots confuse me, too, especially if I've got other stuff on my mind.

Margo: Same for me. All three, and the book gets two thumbs up! :)

Talli: I get almost all of my books from the library . . . so I don't usually have to worry about paying for a book with a bad plot. :P

Catherine: I put things in the same order!

Charles: Me, too. I have enjoyed some books without a lot of plot to them.

Bethany: I find it's mostly a split between characters a plot--some people put plot first, others character!

Stephen: I agree. As long as the writing is good, and stuff happens!

Alleged: I will often stick with a book for more than a couple chapters if I don't sense a plot, since I have found books that improved after a while. But only if I'm willing to wait through the beginning. :P

Robyn: I often do the same.

Sangu: Contrived plots drive me nuts--I like things that are more realistic!

Miss Gwenea: I will definitely wish her a happy birthday! Thanks for the note about it. :)

ali: Agreed. If the character(s) is well done, then plot sometimes takes a backseat.

Flying high in the sky: I agree, too many characters can get in the way of a story. I'm guilty of that--I had probably over a hundred names in the first draft of the book I'm rewriting. :P

Elliot: Oh, I have had fun despising the MC. :D

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Eagle!

Thanks for popping over my way. I am certainly glad I came in here, you have what looks like a VERY informative blog! Love it!

I am a fan of thrillers, so plot, for me anyway, is a crucial ingredient in what I read. I don't discount characters, though. Any writer who can cook up a great story using interesting characters and a great plot has me for life.

This "non-cook" is still working on his skills in that department.
Mind if I hop on the wagon?

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Thanks so much for the follow, Eagle, which has lead me to your awesome blog! I love a plot that surprises me, keeps me guessing and ultimately leads me to a place I hadn't anticipated going.

Len Lambert said...

Hi Golden Eagle! What a great topic! Personally, I'd like to read only a few characters and a plot twist somewhere in the middle or in the end. It doesn't matter if the plot is very simple as long as it surprises me in the end. The books 'Breaking the Silence' by Diane Chamberlain and 'Me & Emma' by Elizabeth Flock are very interesting and impressive plots that I've read so far. In my writing, I find it difficult to develop the plot that has a surprising twist. The first ms I've written had 6 different plots so I've abandoned it entirely, LOL. Now I hope my current WIP's plot will develop better than the first. Keeping my fingers crossed.

laughingwolf said...

writing is easy...

it's the re-writing/refining that takes the most time...

one is never too happy with them, but... a time comes when you must shove the little bugger [re-write], warts and all, into the world... :O lol

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Characters mean most to me, so I'll read through an average plot if I love the characters.

Nicki T. said...

I have to like the story. If I like the story, I can dislike the characters. One of my favorite movies is "The Princess Bride", and I don't like the two main characters at all. But if I don't like the story, I will put it down. Or just continue reading, if it's a book in a series that's overall pretty good and needs to be read before I get the next one.

The Golden Eagle said...

Bryce: Thank you! I hope you enjoy my posts.

They've got a reader in me, too.

Nope. :)

Angelina: You're welcome! And thanks for following me.

I do, too.

Len: I'm having trouble with the plot for the novel I'm rewriting--I keep finding holes (or potential ones) but for now I'm resolved to just push through and fix it later in revisions.

Good luck with your WIP!

Laughingwolf: True--I usually find it's easier to churn out the words than work at improving the writing. I want to write, not worry about description and whatnot!

And hope it doesn't go badly. :P

L. Diane: Me, too. Despite the fact I consider plot to be the most important aspect, if the characters are good, I'll keep reading!

Nicki: Good point! I've read books because they were part of a series . . . not necessarily because I thought they were excellent.

I really want to see The Princess Bride--I've heard a lot about the movie, and enjoyed the book. :D

Rachna Chhabria said...

For me plot is extremely important. If I don't like the plot, then the book is returned back to the shelf.

I love strong main characters and complicated plots, the twists and turns keep my eyes glued to the pages.

N. R. Williams said...

I believe a story can be dually driven by plot and characters as Donald Maas suggested. Some plots by necessity are driven without much development of the characters like action movies. Others seem to rely too heavily on characters. A balanced blend is more fulfilling. The thing that drives me nuts the most is head hopping. This is because I take great pains to do POV shifts the right way that won't confuse the reader or me.

Great post.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

The Golden Eagle said...

Rachna: That's a winning combination for me! :)

Nancy: I don't mind head-hopping, as long as I know whose head I'm in at the moment; it can be very confusing when the perspective is muddled, though.


Misha said...

The plot is essential, but for me, a good character development is far more important. Sometimes I love a book even without a great plot, if the characterization is great.