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Monday, 27 February 2012

When a Man Loves a Book: Character Vs. Plot

You know that moment when you realize you’re in love? For some, it comes in a flash, just after you’ve seen/met the person. Others take years to figure it out. In either case, it’s a shocking and nerve-racking experience. It’s like your whole world has suddenly changed, and you can’t go back.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s the same for books. Not because it’s a similar tingly feeling (though there’s that too), but mostly because we are changed after we read a book that we loved. Am I right? I may watch and read a LOT of books and movies, but the stories that have stuck with me have all taught me something: about life, about dreams, about magic, about death, you name it.

I was just thinking about this because it happened to me again today. Can I just say: I absolutely ADORE when it happens! It’s like a mixture of endless excitement about a beginning and terrified anticipation of the end. You can’t wait to see what happens in the end but you don’t want it to end, not really.

But you have to keep reading because what choice do you have? The book has won you over, and that’s the best way to put it. Same goes for people. There’s a moment when it just clicks: I can’t live without it, so I love and hate it all the same. Yeah, love is frustrating, it is…

Anyway, enough vagueness, let’s get to the facts. But first, a question: When do YOU fall in love with a book? I do realize the answer will probably be different for everyone, so I can’t wait to hear your input on it. It’s one of those questions that tickle the back of my mind when it springs up. I have to scratch it… my brain… with a spoon… yeah, I’m a goof.

Let’s see how I see it. My name is Violeta and I fell in love with a book today. 

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
(I'm hugging it right now. Hey, who's creepy!)

I’m afraid that I’ll grow to love it even more before I get to the last sentence. But I’m fairly sure that’s going to happen tomorrow at the latest. It’s one of those books that keep you guessing and obsessing until you’re finished, begging for more. 

(Oh man, not again!)

I may do a review… or not… but I will say this: I fell in love with it when I fell in love with the characters. In truth, I started it a couple of months back – when my life went off whack – but I stopped reading at page – 10 I think – because the plot didn’t ensnare me right away. It was such an interesting idea, though, that I kept it at the back of my mind. Until I picked it up a few days back.

Each chapter told me a little more about the story and the characters. Each chapter enchanted me a little more. And then the moment came with the little things. I laughed at a boy’s joke, whose only defense was to distance himself from his emotions. I marveled at a girl’s way of thinking, who thought about life and death, and how some babies were loved and others not so much. I felt both pity and frustration for another boy, who thought dying young was somehow divine and honorable. And I saw myself in those characters too. In one way or another. And so my journey REALLY begins. Because a story is always different through the prism of magic and love.

Now that I love the characters, I love the story all the more. And this answers another question a lot of writers ask many times: what’s more important, characters or plot? Well I say character makes the story, so they’re the ones that drive the plot, and that’s the way it should be. I’m not saying that plot should be overlooked – there should be a happy balance – but I am saying that riveting plot with empty characters makes for disaster, while riveting characters based on no plot can still be readable.

I do have some books in mind when I say this, but I don’t want to do any authors disservice here. I just wanted to share my thoughts on writing, on this beautiful Monday afternoon (though a bit damp for my taste), and ask you what you thought about the love between a man/woman and a book. 

So when do you fall in love with a book? Is it quick or slow? Happy or sad? Tell me!