The tradeoff for plot

As a writer, plot is very important to me. I care about other things too, of course– character, voice, style, things like that –but I have a very hard time getting invested in a story unless "something interesting happens" in it.

It also happens to be part of the writing process I'm pretty good at. I have a lot of ability to figure out cool events to occur in my stories, and those stories make sense such that the reader can follow their progress, and they unfold at an appropriate rate of speed. Most of my stories have pretty dynamic, solidly-constructed plots. Good examples of this include The Tailor at Loring's End with its well-built mystery, as well as the way the action facilitates interpersonal stories in the Mrs. Hawking plays.

However, when you care about establishing plot in that degree, it takes a lot of time and work. You find yourself having to devote a lot of your story just to the ensuring that everything that needs to happen has time to happen. It puts a really high demand on utilizing moments for multiple purposes at once, such as to advance the plot AND reveal the character. That's very difficult. One thing I particularly struggle with is subtext, I tend to have much more direct conflicts of feelings and motives instead, so making a limited amount of text perform double-duty is very challenging for me. I need to get better at it.

I think of this because I'm currently doing the script edit for Puzzle House Blues, the musical I'm co-writing. After a fairly intensive restructuring of plot events in order to make the arcs work, we've gotten to a place where we're happy with the structure. But now the concern is to make sure there's enough character in there as well, that the audience can really tell who all these people are. It's challenging because a piece for theater performance for a modern audience needs to not exceed a two-hour runtime, and a certain large percentage of a musical must be devoted to the music. So I need to work on my skills at using every line economically– so nothing is sacrificed for plot or character. 

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