Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Author Spotlight - Angela Britnell talks about characters & her favorites

There are always discussions about which is more important - character or plot? When I think about my favorite books and authors it's the characters I remember most. I have to care about what happens to them as the story evolves or in all probability I won't finish the book.

One of my all time favorite books is 'The Rector's Wife' by English author Joanna Trollope. Anna Bouverie is the rector's wife, a woman struggling to be what her husband needs until she realizes she's losing herself and has to make difficult choices. Joanna makes you care deeply about Anna from the very first page and I would love to possess just a small amount of her skill. I'm a big fan of good detective novels and particularly Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse - irascible, highly intelligent, and loaded with bad habits. And then there's Jamie Fraser - Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' hero. A 6' 4" Scotsman with flaming red hair - what's not to remember?

In 'Opposites Attract' Holly presents a stern fa├žade to the world to protect herself from being hurt. I wanted to see her break down those barriers and realize how much richer her life would be if she became true to herself. Brett appears to have everything but I enjoyed watching him face up to how lonely a 'successful' life can be.

Do you think an intriguing plot makes up for less than fascinating characters or are you on the same wavelength as me? Which characters have stuck with you and why? I'd love to hear your thoughts.



  1. Good morning everyone! Writing this post intrigued me the more I thought about it. Love to hear your opinions.

  2. I believe that plot grows from character... and the stronger the characters, the better the book. ; )

  3. Angela, I know this may sound corny, but the best soap operas (late 80's early 90's) were character driven. The plots were slow and methodical but the pay off when the plots finally did come to a head, and quite honestly, that's where I learned to enjoy a character driven plot.

    With a "Plot" driven plot, the pacing is hard, fast, intense and furious and the character building isn't as strong.

    So it's like Melanie said - if you can blend the two elements well, you'll have an outstanding story.

    Just my thoughts. Great question!

  4. Thanks Melanie and Steph,great comments. There's an English soap opera called 'Coronation Street' that's been running for ever - plots are often ridiculous or mundane but people watch because the characters mean so much to them.

  5. In the past I read a lot of the books from Oprah's Book Club and the one that stands out the most is 'White Oleander' by Janet Fitch. This book stands out because of the characters and not the plot. The main character was Astrid, the daughter of a woman in prison. Astrid was a very vivid character which I should have loved and cheered for. However, I never liked her throughout the entire book. So I guess I'm trying to say that I think characters are so important - both good and bad, whether you like them or not. Characters help us connect and make us feel more deeply than plot. Without characters there would be no plot.

  6. Thanks for stopping by Janet. Your last sentence sums it up perfectly in my opinion.

  7. There have been times that I have loved the characters but the plot was so slow or unbelievable that it ruined it for me. In romance I love the interactions and the roller coaster of emotions of the characters. Their story is what's important to me. I love their flaws, insecurities and secrets. I also like to see them grow and get past their problems. I guess the secondary plot isn't as important to me.

  8. I love character-driven novels, but I also love a good plot. If I don't like the characters and care about them, I won't think about the book again after I close it, if I do finish it. The ones that stand out in my mind are books where I vividly remember the characters or something they did sticks with me. For example, in Naomi Musch's The Red Fury, there's no way I'll ever forget those characters. In her The Green Veil, I'll never forget how a boy who was in love with Laney gave her a yellow dog. Sometimes it's the small things that make one remember a novel after finishing it. I remember Lynn Austin's All She Ever Wanted and Chris Fabry's Dogwood from several summers ago. I will also remember those books and the titles because they stand out in my mind. Gail Delaney's Lightning Strikes Twice will be one I'll always remember. I have to care about the characters, but as someone else said if the plot isn't a good one, sometimes it ruins it. I love family serials and generational stories. You really get to know and come to care about the characters. Blessings for success. I'm putting this novel on my reading list. BJ Robinson

  9. Kathleen - I love the way you summed up the essence of a good romance novel.

    BJ. I'll have to check out some of the books you mentioned - I always like recommendations. thanks for the good wishes and hope you enjoy 'Opposites Attract.'

  10. Hi, Angela, I'm glad to meet you. Characters. It's all about the characters. Without good, strong one, the best plot in the world would be all for naught. You could take a good characters and place him/her in any plot and have a good story--if the characters are outstanding.
    Now, I do have to have a good plot. I hate it when an editor says, "this is contrived,". Well, of course, it is! It's fiction...but the characters are what matters.
    Good question...

  11. Thanks for commenting Celia - we're definitely on the same wavelength!