I've been getting ready to plot a new novel and when I'm in this process I go back and read favorite writing books to get my enthusiasm revved up and come away with new ideas that will improve my writing.
In The Philosophy of Plot by James Frey, (The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing from Writers Digest), he covered how characters affect plots.
When a writer creates characters he should, according to Frey, make them strikingly different from one another. He goes on to say that these differences will minimize plotting problems that usually develop. The one problem I seem to have over and over again is stalling out and can't seem to get it moving. He attributes that to characters who are too much the same and me, the author, trying to get the characters to do what I would do in that situation instead of what they would do.
Well-orchestrated characters "once pitted against one another, the author needs only to present the predicament to send the characters on their mission."
One of his examples was why not have a streetwise kid hide from the law in a nursing home...my mind took off with that one.
Another example he gave was in The African Queen, how different it would have been if the story was about two old drunks instead of the uptight, Bible-thumping, Rose pitted against the old sot Charlie Allnut.
Creating the plot from a set of well-orchestrated characters is one of the truly creative aspects of the fiction writer's craft.
Thanks, Mr. Frey, I'm off to try and do just that!