Ramblings & ephemera

Shelby Foote on what comes first: character or plot

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151):

INTERVIEWER Which comes first, character or plot?

FOOTE Character comes first. I separate the mass of novels into good and bad. A good book could be described as one about a man who, in a situation, does such and such. A bad book is about a situation in which a man does such and such. In other words, plot ought to grow out of character. You don’t have to make up a plot. You have to have a person and place him in a situation and a plot starts happening.

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