Plot or Character

Welcome to the Rolling Mystery Blog Tour. My post is the third in today's rolling blog. Our topic is: what's more important plot or character?

     That's a tough question to answer. A great mystery plot will keep me turning the pages until the end. But delightful, intriguing characters whom I can relate to make me feel as if I'm part of the story. Beginning the next book in a series is like a visit with old friends. When I reach the last page, I often don't want the book to end. Wherever those characters go, I want to go with them.

     When I teach my mystery-writing workshop, I stress the need for characters in mystery series to grow otherwise readers might lose interest. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plume and her gang kept me laughing for years. Then I hit the wall around number 15. Stephanie continued to vacillate between her two hotties, continued to have financial trouble, and although I love her hamster Rex, he has outlived any hamster on the planet. But who am I to talk?  Evanovich is a bestselling author whose sales number in the millions. I hope she continues to write her mysteries. She’s created memorable characters, but to hold my interested I would like to see them develop over time.

     While characters are entertaining, great plotting grabs me like a chess game, pulling me into the story, blocking out all distractions. I don't answer my phone, I don't answer my doorbell, I ignore my e-mail, and I pretend to listen when my husband tells me something. Instead I find myself pondering the story even when I’m not reading the book. John Irving’s latest, Last Night in Twisted River, is such a book, but then so are all of his novels. His characters are often successful writers whose lives are in an upheaval, then he places them in awkward, unbelievable situations. He weaves a story, taking readers from past, present, and back again with such finesse, you don’t notice.

     So, my answer is both. When writers create memorable characters with intriguing plot, their books receive a prominent place on my shelf. Next to Irving, sets Carl Hiaasen, Anne Perry, Elizabeth George, and Martha Grimes.

   Read what my fellow bloggers have to say. We'd love to hear your opinion on this topic, so please leave us a comment.