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Chasing a Character to Find the Plot by Adite Banerjie

Author Adite Banerjie [1] joins us today to share her process on writing a character driven story. 

Welcome back, Adite! 

I have often been accused of writing stories that are plot-driven. And I plead guilty as charged!

Blame it on my training in screenwriting, a medium where action is more important than words. As a screenwriter you learn to steer clear of emotions that are not “actionable” or do not push the story forward. So much so that writing introspective points-of-view that require digging deep into character motivations makes me break in a cold sweat.

When I started writing my second book, Trouble has a New Name for Harlequin’s Indian Author Collection Series, I decided to face-off with my fear of developing character-driven stories.

Here’s a quick and easy roundup of my journey and the lessons I learned along the way.

Going for the K.I.S.S.

As far as plot was concerned, I would go with the KISS. And I don’t mean the hot, bone-melting, tongue-tango kind. Rather, the Keep It Simple Strategy. My strategy would be to create a logline (or premise) that was not too complicated and didn’t involve too many twists and turns in the plot.

Easier said than done—because I’m obsessive when it comes to outlining. Every beat, scene, turning point in the plot needs to be laid out in vivid detail.

After struggling with the KISS for weeks, I still couldn’t work out a single premise that was free of plot complications.

Lesson Learned #1: Start with the character and not the premise.

Taking inspiration from Chick-lit

Now that I knew I was going about KISS the wrong way, I decided on a new tack. Since my focus was on writing a character-driven story, I would begin with my Adite IIII (623x640) [2]Heroine. I turned to the chick-lit genre for inspiration. Heck, that wasn’t going to be any easier! Though I love the frothiness of a chick-lit, I’m not terribly fond of first person narratives. Sure, it makes you get deeper under the skin of the character, but the obsession with skin-deep stuff—brands, makeover and make-outs—wasn’t really my kind of writing. Call me old-fashioned but I love those sweeping romantic sagas that make you sigh and swoon. Yet, I so admire the frothy, light-hearted, fresh appeal of the chick-lit. Well, that’s me…mixed up!

Lesson Learned #2: Focus on characterizations rather than the writing style.

Mixing and Matching

I struggled to keep the confusion at bay that was turning my brain into mush. What use was a strategy without characters or plot? And since Sophie Kinsella’s quirky heroines were still doing their merry little dance in my head, I decided to create my own goofy heroine.

Here’s what I came up with: Rayna Dutt, an up-and-coming model is a firm believer of Murphy’s laws which she calls Rayna’s Book of Immutable Laws (RBIL). More often than not these laws come back to bite her in the butt.

As Rayna’s character began to take shape, I discovered something totally fascinating…Rayna’s ‘impulsive’ character trait was beginning to drive some of the situations that would land her in trouble. And her ‘immutable laws’ were providing the plot points. Here’s a little illustration:

RBIL #3 Turbulence, emotional turmoil and tequila make for a lethal combination.

She leaped out of her seat, hand clamped hard against her mouth and dashed for the washroom. But one of her flip-flops caught the back of the seat and she flailed her arms to grab something—anything. Just then the stewardess emerged, balancing a tray containing a pitcher of orange juice and savoury snacks. Rayna clutched at the hostess’s arm as she desperately tried to save herself from hitting the floor of the plane face first and throwing up at the same time. But the pitcher had no such luck. It headed southwards and Rayna cringed as its contents splashed all over Mr. Deductive Logic. She heard him mutter a savage curse and then felt his strong arm steady her. Breaking free, she made it to her destination and threw up into the toilet bowl in the nick of time. Hey Bhagwan! (Oh God!) She was living her worst nightmare ever!

Lesson Learned #3: Use character traits to develop situations that would move the story forward.

Doing it Upside Down

Once I had the character traits down for Rayna – feisty, independent, impulsive with a penchant for getting into trouble – coming up with her motivation was a breeze. She is motivated by pride and when in trouble seeks out face saving solutions.

Next stop: Premise. Before I knew it, I had a logline that went something like this….

Flying to the Andaman Islands for her best friend’s big fat wedding couldn’t happen at a worse time for recently-dumped Rayna Dutt. Perhaps the handsome hotelier Neel Arora can come to her rescue?

Lesson Learned #4: Upside down (premise after character) works!

Best of Both Worlds

Once the characters had been sketched out, I went back to devising a beat sheet. Yeah, old habits die hard. The only difference was this time, it was not a detailed beat sheet but a few essential plot points that would help me keep track as I wrote my first draft.

As I started writing, it all began to come together. The novel was turning out to be a frothy, fun novel with the humor-tinged voice of a chick-lit but the luscious body of a romance! 😉

Life had been amazingly spectacular ever since Neel had stormed back into it. Rayna had taken permanent residence on cloud nine. And she had a new and vastly improved Book of Immutable Laws that she’d renamed the Love Nirvana Book.

Rule #1: When you’re with your Mr. Right nothing can go wrong!

Lesson Learned #5: Follow your character to create your story. Thanks, Rayna Dutt, for showing your author the way! 

What challenges you in your writing and how you deal with it?

Amy Alessio returns tomorrow with more reading recommendations and author Marilyn Brant joins us on Monday, August 11th.  


Trouble Has A New Name [3] Trouble Has A New Name [4] (Mills & Boon Indian Author Collection)

Will you pretend to be my fiancé for the next few days?

Recently single model Rayna Dutt does not feel like flying to her friend’s big fat Indian wedding. But she does—and when a mix-up with room allocation forces her to share a luxury villa on Emerald Isle with the gorgeous owner of the hotel Neel Arora, best man at the wedding, things begin to look up.

Until Rayna’s ex turns up with a new girl on his arm!

Hitting the panic button, Rayna searches for a solution. Surely Neel wouldn’t mind being her fake fiancé…? In an instant the attraction they share is at fever-pitch, but when scandal comes calling Rayna soon finds herself in more trouble than she can handle!

Bio: Adite Banerjie is a screenwriter and published author. Growing up in a home with a filmmaker dad who worked in the world’s largest film industry (yes, Bollywood!) and a voracious reader for a mom, it was inevitable she would fall in love with both films and books.

She turned to fiction writing after a fulfilling and exciting career as a business journalist. When she penned her first romantic short story, she won the Harlequin India Passions Aspiring Authors Contest (2012). Her debut title, The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal, based on the winning short story, came out in September 2013. Her second title (Trouble Has a New Name) is now available as an e-book internationally and in paperback and e-book formats in India.
Adite lives in New Delhi, India, with her writer husband, mother and their adorable Irish Setter. She would be delighted to hear from her readers at http://www.aditebanerjie.com [1]Amazon Profile [5]  Pinterest [6]  Facebook [7]  Twitter [8]


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23 Comments To "Chasing a Character to Find the Plot by Adite Banerjie"

#1 Comment By Rubina Ramesh On August 8, 2014 @ 1:38 am

Adite Banerjie has always been an inspiration. The characters she creates are very relatable yet glamorous. This is one lady, whose books I would never miss.

#2 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 5:16 am

Rubina, thanks so much for your kind words! 🙂

#3 Comment By Renita D’Silva On August 8, 2014 @ 2:31 am

Really enjoyed this informative post. Thank you, Adite, for sharing your writing process with us. Rayna sounds wonderful! Cannot wait to meet her in ‘Trouble Has a New Name’ 🙂

#4 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 5:19 am

Thanks, Renita! I do hope you like her…but be warned, she is a bit ditsy! 😉

#5 Pingback By Crafting Character-Driven Plots | AditeBanerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 7:44 am

[…] Read the rest of this post here. […]

#6 Comment By Laurie Schnebly Campbell On August 8, 2014 @ 8:10 am

Adite, I love how you summarized each lesson in a single pithy sentence — Rayna did a fabulous job with those. 🙂

It’s amazing to me how many ways of writing work for various authors; and this is a lovely example of the best way to start with the character.

Thanks for sharing your process!

Laurie, who never knew your husband is a writer as well — that’s so cool <3

#7 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 8:17 am

Hi Laurie, thanks for stopping by! Confession time: Rayna has been secretly attending your fabulous workshops! 😀

#8 Comment By Carrie Spencer On August 8, 2014 @ 9:19 am

Morning Adite!

I’m always hugely challenged by plot. My characters do fine, but the plot? Oy, drives me crazy. No matter how much pre-planning I do – which frankly isn’t a LOT – I always develop a plot hole of mammoth proportions.

Thanks for letting us read your process and looking forward to reading your book!


#9 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 9:37 am

LOL, Carrie…I know what you mean. But I guess, with every book we develop new skills to weave characters and plot seamlessly. Good luck with your writing and thanks for the opportunity to post on RU! 🙂

#10 Comment By Reet Singh On August 8, 2014 @ 9:43 am

Hi Adite, thanks for sharing. Will try some of your tricks for my next one – they sound very handy – and you’ve proved they work with ‘Trouble’!

#11 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 9:53 am

Thanks Reet. I’m sure you have your own ‘bag of writing tricks’! 🙂

#12 Comment By Devika Fernando On August 8, 2014 @ 10:19 am

What a wonderful post! It is so interesting to see how your screenwriting background influences your writing – and how you’ve found your niche. I absolutely loved “The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal”, and that includes your style of writing. Can’t wait to get my hands on “Trouble Has A New Name”!

#13 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

Thanks Devika for your kind words. Hope you enjoy Trouble has a new name too! 🙂

#14 Comment By Jennifer Tanner On August 8, 2014 @ 8:59 pm

Hi Adite,

I’m a fan of character-driven stories. I sketch out my characters first with an idea of a plot, but the plot usually hybridizes as the characters really start to bloom. For me, the story sounds more authentic than trying to stick characters into a plot because their motivation may not be true to character.

Thanks for joining us today!

#15 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 8, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

My pleasure entirely, Jennifer! 🙂

#16 Comment By Victoria Adams On August 9, 2014 @ 7:06 am

Great post. I never thought about how I write, but you described it for me. I generally know what’s supposed to happen, but I let my characters take control.

#17 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 11, 2014 @ 7:40 am

Thanks Victoria for reading and tweeting. 🙂

#18 Comment By Arti On August 9, 2014 @ 11:03 am

Loved it Adite

#19 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 11, 2014 @ 7:40 am

Thanks, Arti! 🙂

#20 Comment By Jan On August 9, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

I can’t write a detailed plot to save my life. I’m more of a pantser, but I MUST figure out the character and backstory first. Then I let the hero and heroine guide me.

#21 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 11, 2014 @ 8:11 am

Hi Jan. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Good luck with your writing. 🙂

#22 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On August 10, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

Adite – I’m so sorry I’m late! I could have sworn I posted a comment on Friday. Geesh! I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I do like to start with a framework of anchor scenes. I like your suggestions very much and I’m going to try this right away. Thank you for a very helpful post!

#23 Comment By Adite Banerjie On August 11, 2014 @ 9:30 am

Hi Becke. No problem at all. I’m glad you found the post useful. 🙂