Both! That's what the title character in the popular movie 'Radio' answered when he was asked which kind of pie he wanted. (Cherry or Apple? I don't remember specifically). But I remember that answer. Both. Isn't that what we all want when it comes to pie? (Never mind my diet).
But when it comes to literature we are told we can't have both. It's either cherry or apple. Take your pick, but you can't have both. Only in this case it's either deeply moving character-driven 'literary' stories or novels 'or' it's plot driven stories with shallow characters and even more shallow moral problems to work through. Now I may be hard to please but if I get the chance, I want both. I want a work that sweeps me up in a genuine story (it doesn't have to be a three act play or follow the Freitag Triangle, but it has to move along) 'and' a reason for that story to exist. Both a deep character study 'and' a great story line, in short.
After all, what is a plot but a series of incidents that happens to (or are caused by) character? What is character but an ever deepening personality formed by the things that happen to her/him, or by what they already believe? I know. I know. This is not the place to go into a long study of either character or theme or plot. You can read entire books on any of those subjects.
I'm a frustrated author and reader. About the time I started writing in earnest, back in the early seventies (that's 1970s thank you very much), a movement was taking hold that later came to be called 'Post Modern'. A division had begun between what was considered 'literary' and thus serious writing, and popular, and thus not serious writing. If you were a serious literary writer, you didn't concern yourself with the story. (Sniff). You only concerned yourself with character and experimental ways of driving the story forward. But if you were a popular writer who wanted to explore the depths of human character in your story, you were accused of slowing the plot line down. (Which is Baaad).
Well, I'm here to tell you: I still want both. I want to read both and I want to write both. I know I'm too picky for words. I want 'Lonesome Dove' or 'A Thousand Acres' or even 'Blindness' for crying out loud. Both. So if you're writing, please remember me while you're doing it. And I pledge that I will remember 'both' in my writing.
Work on my master work continues and you can bet it has both. I am experimenting a little too, but it is within the framework - the structure (another no-no word for post moderns)- of the greater story. I am taking time to develop my characters and they have genuine heart-felt reasons for doing what they do and the action grows from those characters and their convictions. Work is progressing nicely.
I wanted to take a moment to thank my daughter Holly here, too. I was struggling with all the work I am doing promoting 'The Angelic Mysteries' which is coming out in August. I wasn't getting as much work done of my work in progress and was having trouble concentrating on it. She reminded me of something her writing professor taught her: "Do the writing first." Now that sounds like pretty simple advice (the best advice usually is), but it is so true. The minute I started putting my writing first again, everything else has begun to fall in line. After all, I could work 24/7 on promotional activities and still never be done. Start with your writing. Then do everything else. Thanks again Holly.