For me, the revelation that “plot is character” dissolves many popular critical terms.

Take, “the characters were thin”.  Many classic books renown for their rich characterisation are actually rather short by modern standards. The Great Gatesby weighs in at 47K. Catcher in the Rye, 73K. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, about 50K. Of Mice and Men, about 30K.

How do they fit in that rich characterisation? By having plots that force the characters to show us who they really are far more effectively than could any literary character sketch, no matter how elegant and insightful. So if the characters seem thin, then perhaps the story needs more plot.

Conversely, the same goes for, “the story was too slow paced”. Some really big fat volumes are riveting reads right until the end of the series.

How do they manage to have plots that stretch so very far? By having characters who generate plot by being themselves. Powerful, complex characters on all sides take a long time to battle it out. So if the story seems slow paced, perhaps it needs more dynamic chracters to make stuff happen.

M Harold Page on plot-as-character.

[Content warning that the full article contains a very off-hand description of a mythologized-yet-brutal-rape as a “writing example”. Which… can we just not? Ta.]

I’ve been thinking about things like this a lot, lately. Books nowadays–particularly genre books–seem to be trending fast towards the doorstopper, particularly when compared to novels ten or twenty years ago. I don’t mind a good doorstopper, but the critical word there is good; if you’re going to sell me a twenty pound bag, you’d better have at least twenty pounds of plot to put into it. And yet I’ve read… a non-zero number of 100k+ word books over the last few years that are more of the “five pounds” variety.

Incidentally, I think one of the reasons I enjoyed Annihilation so much was that it was pretty much the opposite; the book is only about 60k, but that 60k is dense.