Sick Burn from Dorothy Sayers

Too much attention should not be paid to those writers who say (holding one the while with a fixed and hypnotic gaze): “I don’t really invent the plot, you know — I just let the characters come into my mind and let them take charge of it.” Writers who work this way do not, as a matter of brutal fact, usually produce very good books. The lay public (most of them confirmed mystagogues) rather like to believe in this inspirational fancy; but as a rule the element of pure craftsmanship is more important than most of us are willing to admit. Nevertheless, the free will of a genuinely created character has a certain reality, which the writer will defy at his peril.

The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy Sayers, p. 67

8 thoughts on “Sick Burn from Dorothy Sayers

  1. I do believe there is a bit of both, Jennifer. A lot of research and planning first, but also allowing the characters to lead the plot, showing their vulnerabilities, flaws, sometimes their evil side or their aspirations. It’s not until the author is deep into the story that the protagonist reveals his or her true self.

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    1. This quote actually comes in the middle of a discussion about the “free will” of the characters and how this helps us understand how a sovereign God could create people who also have free will. This little aside is to point out that, though we want the characters to come to life, that isn’t how we plot.


  2. Speaking as an art creator, not a writer, all I can say is that creating is usually hard work. Occasionally there are those times where the muse takes over but I can’t count on. Just keep slogging away. The trick with any professional is to make the difficult look easy.

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