Thursday, 23 October 2008

Character over plot

I love it when a crime writer preaches the gospel of character over plot. It give me a warm fuzzy feeling (of hope, that I can hack it in this genre). Thanks to Frances for pointing me towards this interview with James Sallis, who is now on my list of To Read crime novelists.

"The barely-there storylines in Salt River almost evaporate on the page. You don't get lost in his plots, they tend to lose themselves. "Plots are a contrivance – our lives are plotless – yet they're necessary, I think, to literary form," explains Sallis. "My way of dealing with this has been to move the plot offstage a bit, to write around it." Is this why, when I think of Sallis's books, I'm hit by smells of home-brewed coffee and wild magnolia rather than anything that actually happened? "Those are the parts of the world that we own, what comes back to us about times in our own lives when we think of the past," he insists. "All too often I'm reading this great book with a solid setting, characters that walk right into my own life, then somewhere around the fifth or sixth chapter the plot kicks in – and all that falls into the background. I want all that stuff, that surround, to remain in the foreground."


Walter Giersbach said...

Good advice, Sarah, that I shall apply to my detective/mystery stories. Thank you. (My plotless life is only exceeded by my dubious character.)

Sarah Hilary said...

Great, Walt, and I love the bit in brackets.