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Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction

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  • Posted June 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A must-have for every fiction writer!

    Jeff Gerke has some serious credentials. He is a multi-published author, Christy Award-winning editor, and founder of Marcher Lord Press, an independent publisher of Christian speculative fiction. He's also a sought-after writing speaker/teacher. I had the pleasure of sitting in one of Jeff's workshops at a writers' conference in 2010. Reading this book, I felt like I now had the detailed companion manual to that class. As Gerke points out late in the book, Plot Versus Character's title is playful. It brings to mind Plot and Character squaring off in their respective corners of the ring (or octagon if you like my favorite sport). Really, the book is more like Plot Loves Character, or Plot and Character: Beloved BFFs Destined to Live Happily Ever After. In it, Jeff explores creating the perfect balance of well-developed characters and exciting, page-turning plot. It is designed to help both character-first novelists (like me) and plot-first novelists in strengthening their weaker area and learning to marry both elements together. Good stuff. What I love about Jeff's nonfiction writing is his sense of humor. His metaphors and illustrations are amusing, his examples are fun, and the books are simply enjoyable to read, aside from being very instructive. He's a great teacher in a classroom setting, and this comes across well in his books. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book for writers. It is put out for the general market, so the information is not specific to Christian authors (for that type of book from Jeff, see The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, which is also wonderful).

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2011

    Best writing book in my personal library

    The basis of "Plot Versus Character" is that writers are either strong character creators or strong plotters. His technique was developed when he (a plotter) decided to write a character-driven series. He starts with how to create characters that readers will connect with, and then moves into building a plot that provides the perfect stage for the characters.

    I can say without hesitation that "Plot Versus Character" is the best writing how-to book I've ever gotten my hands on. I've learned from all the books that I've read, but this one made everything gel. It was the syrup on the big stack of writing how-to pancakes; it covered everything I already knew, soaked into the cracks, and brought everything together. I feel like I'm finally on the right track.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    Too much like a Meyers Brigg test

    I thought Gerke's book, The First 50 Pages, was one of the best books on writing I've read, and I've read a lot of them. So, when I got into Plot versus Character, I was sorely disappointed. The beginning of the book goes on and on describing the different character types that are consistent with the permutations of the Meyers Briggs personality test. While I thought his interpretations of the test were correct, he didn't do a good job of showing the process a writer should use to determine what personalities a character should have to make your book interesting or fit in with the plot and voice of your writing. I rarely stop reading a book but I stopped reading this one at about page 50. Stick with his awesome (and sometimes funny ) book, the First 50 Pages.

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  • Posted March 10, 2013

    If you write fiction, you need to read this book. It's as simpl

    If you write fiction, you need to read this book. It's as simple as that. If you are weak at characterization or plotting (or both), you won't be any longer. Some writing books start out simple but then get confusing as they heap on more and more rules. This book never does that. I was able to easily follow along and apply every lesson to my current writing project. If you're serious about writing, get this book!

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    One Writing Book Every Fiction Writer Needs!

    A lot of fiction writing books are written to sell moreso than to actually make a difference. This book is one of my favorites...msybe even #1. Many books on writing make you think about your writing...this one changes your approach in a significant way.

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  • Posted December 17, 2010

    Must-Have for Writers

    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 reading, finding insights you can apply to your story on every page. Whatever the level of your writing skill, this excellent book will help you take your writing to the next level.

    Marta Perry, Murder in Plain Sight, Anna's Return

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  • Posted December 13, 2010

    Plot versus Character--Which kind of writer are you?

    It's often said that there are two kinds of writers in the world--but what those two kinds are depends on who you ask. Arthur Koestler said that there are writers whose desks offer a window view and writers who like to face the wall. Clifton Fadiman said that there are writers who give you truths and writers who give you themselves. Most of the writers I know can be divided between those who meticulously outline their novel before they start writing versus those who write "by the seat of the pants," never knowing ahead of time where their story is taking them. Jeff Gerke has put his finger on what may be the most crucial dividing line of all--writers who are good at plotting versus writers who are good at characterization. Few writers of fiction are innately and equally skilled at both plotting and character-creation. Jeff has unpacked all the intricacies of both plot and character, so that we, as writers, can improve the skills we possess and acquire the skills we lack. I consider plots to be my strong suit. I have to focus more consciously and deliberately on creating believable characters. So I appreciate Jeff's layered treatment of the task of character creation. This book serves as a checklist of the tasks you must perform in order to create a character who lives and breathes in the imagination of your reader: Do I know my character's temperament? Is she likable? Have I tied my character's "knot"? If you have completed all the tasks Jeff lays out, your character will be real to you, and to your readers. Jeff's treatment of plot is equally thorough and practical. He's an experienced writing teacher (I sat in on one of his workshops a few years ago), and he writes the same way he talks--in a conversational, relaxed style. As a writer, editor, and teacher, he's one of the best. Whatever your strengths and weaknesses as a fiction writer, Jeff gives you the tools to become more balanced and complete, so that you can achieve your goals as a novelist. Highly recommended!

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    You need this book in your writing arsenal.

    I don't care whether you're a beginning storyteller or you have multiple published novels to your name, your writing will be tighter after reading Jeff Gerke's Plot versus Character. And I would recommend reading it more than once. As Gerke points out, most novelists lean in one direction or the other, and you don't have to be writing long before you can tell whether your writing is plot driven or character driven. In my opinion you can often tell by the types of novels you read. Partial to thrillers and other fast-paced action? Then you probably aren't excited about the idea of fleshing out your own book's characters until they nearly walk off the page. Partial to sharp dialogue between fascinating people? Then you've probably been told you need to add "conflict" to your plot. Or plot to your plot.

    Gerke has had enough experience in the publishing industry to know most writers struggle to simultaneously provide riveting plot and compelling, believable, characters. So he shows how to strengthen your skills in both regards and then blend them together. I can't wait to apply this book to my next manuscript. Highly recommended to novelists and anyone even considering writing a novel.

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  • Posted December 6, 2010

    Great Resource

    Gerke has written a winner. Whether you are a plot-driven or character-driven writer, this book has something for you. (I'm still waiting for the book for the procrastination-driven writer.) Written in an enjoyable conversational style, it's like the author is sitting down at Starbucks having a one-on-one consultation with you about your work. I enjoyed being able to go straight to the chapters that addressed my specific weakness areas. If you're looking to be a more well-rounded author, this is the book for you.

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  • Posted November 30, 2010

    Putting it all together

    If, as a writer, you've found yourself with an exciting plot populated with plastic characters, or, conversely, fascinating characters wandering around in a ho-hum plot, this is the book for you.

    Jeff Gerke will help you create memorable characters by building layers around a core personality. He'll show you how to use a three-act structure to build from an inciting incident to an indelible conclusion.

    And he'll show you how to meld them together into a story that is uniquely your own.

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  • Posted November 26, 2010

    Meaty & In-depth!

    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 foundation of their stories and characters.

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  • Posted November 10, 2010

    A Must Have!

    Plot and character, like the chicken and the egg, cannot exist without each other.

    Jeff Gerke's Plot Versus Character helps writers find the optimum balance between the two, and it does it with easy to understand explanations and examples that are easy to apply. For beginning and experienced writers who want to turn their stories up a notch, this is a must have.

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    Posted March 12, 2014

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    Posted January 18, 2011

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