Elizabeth Bowen On Character Development
There’s an old BBC interview from 1956 with Elizabeth Bowen, author of The Death of the Heart, in which she discusses the importance of strong characters.
She poses this question:
Would you or I, as readers, be drawn into a novel implicated with what may be its other issues, at all, if our interest was not pegged to the personalities and the outlook and the actions of the people whom we encounter inside the story? They are the attractive element in the book.
This being so, which comes first, naturally, into the mind of the novelist when he begins to work—the people (or characters) or the plot?
Bowen goes on to explain why, in her practice, the plot comes first.
Her thought being that the novelist needs to have the story developed to the point where they can determine “what kind of person would perform this action.” And that’s where the character development comes in.
It’s an interesting 11-minute interview (all in audio) if you want to go to the BBC site and listen.
So what’s your take: Which comes first—plot or characters?
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)