I have to thank @kmweiland for getting me noodling along these lines again. Her tweet was asking just this question, as a question of the day.
My response (in more than 140 characters this time) is that a really well considered character study can still be a really fascinating read. I love writing back stories for people I see randomly in restaurants or in the stores.
Why is he limping? Why does that kid seem sick? Geez, how MANY bags of potato chips do you really need? When you ask yourself those questions, there are two things to do – either ask them out loud (which may garner some funny looks) or write them down and come up with your own fictional rationale for what’s going on a little later.
A really good plot on the other hand, is really just an outline. It might be a wonderful plot, never before seen by the mind of man, glistening with new promises of movies or maybe a broadway production. But without characters to develop, the plot is just… a framework. It’s the skeleton of the story without any of the meat.
So, I think it is sort of like a sandwich. The bread holds the good stuff inside. That’s the plot. It’s full of promise, but you really don’t want to taste just the bread. Sure, there are different flavors of bread and I love them all – but that’s not enough to make me sit up and take notice. Well, unless it’s fresh out of the oven, but that’s a different story. The good stuff is inside. The characters. And it is how those characters react to the plot (which must be somewhere in the mayo and mustard layers) that a really good sandwich is formed.
Yeah. I’m hungry. Sorry about that. But I like my analogy. =D