Fantasy writer Kate Mosse has written a defence on the importance of plotting for The Guardian here. Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about and why writers and those who instruct creative writing are so anti-plot. Plot drives story. Plot is story otherwise you just have “a day in the life” without direction.
As a rule I find character-driven-with-no-plot works of literature pretentious and most importantly – dispassionate – with the writer looking to win awards and seem intelligent rather than wishing to give people pleasure through their art. On the flip side, a story that is solely about the plot comes across as cheap and nasty and gives the impression of being knocked up in six weeks without edit, full of clichés and characters that are merely vessels for transporting dialogue.
Most of all I don’t like the implication that emphasis on plot means that character and dialogue are sacrificed. Some of the best books I’ve read accomplish all three and those are the works that stay with me the longest. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for example has so many layers, such a wonderful plot and depth to the characters. It is one of those novels that requires a re-read every couple of years so that it is never out of your mind.
Most bizarrely is that Stephen King has such a harsh criticism of plot. Aren’t his works almost completely about story? There is rarely a great amount of character development or profound dialogue in his work. He himself has written an example of good plotting and strong characters working together: The Stand. Mother Abigail aside (whom Spike Lee might refer to as a “Magic Negro)”, Randall Flagg is one of the most menacing villains in modern fiction. It is easy to see why some people might side with him. Many of the heroes are well-developed, flawed yet good people; in some cases the villains are sympathetic and sometimes they are good people.