Friday, March 2, 2012

Voice vs. Plot Smackdown

Last night I was at my second ever installment of book club. We reviewed SHATTER ME, by Tahereh Mafi. This was my favorite read for 2011, and therefore MY my suggestion for our churchie little book club.

Let's just say I was shocked when everyone in my book club didn't feel the same as me. At one point, my friend turned to me and asked, "Exactly what about this book made you think it was so good?" My jaw dropped a little before I could collect myself to answer.

I liked it because of Miss Mafi's unique voice, her breakthrough style, her revolutionary disregard of complete sentences. I was blown away by how different and poetic the prose developed. Her response was, "Oh." Pause. "Well, what about the plot?"

"What about the plot?" I responded.

"There wasn't one," another girl reasoned with me. "Not until the very end anyway, and then the ending was beyond weak, totally ripped from the comic book section, and lackluster," she debated.

The next twenty minutes were full of opinions on how bad the actual plot was. How did I overlook that? I mean, I knew the ending wasn't as fabulous as the beginning, but I hadn't placed enough emphasis on it. I've come to realize that I favored voice over plot. As a fellow writer I was blown away by that "Oh So Undefinable Golden Tool" (voice) that I didn't pay attention to how essential plot is as well.

So what do you think? Voice vs. Plot?
(I know both are important! It's not one or the other. Otherwise my large book club wouldn't have cared, right? Which one do you appreciate or favor more?)


  1. I think both are important. I 'll be honest. I did NOT like Shatter Me at all.

    There was no plot. And yes, her stye is extremely unique, and heck! I wish I could pull it off... but reading the book, I felt like Mafi was more invested in showing us how awesome and different her writing is, than she was in giving us a good story.

    and Juliette? oh dear, don't even get me started.... LOL the girl who could think only about jumping the hot guy.. even in the midst of life threatening situations.. eh!

    I have to say I was a little heartbroken, because I was soooo looking forward to the book.. and she is an amazing writer, i won't take that from her.. but I want a good story!

    oops sorry for my rant, LOL

    1. Oh Cristina, I totally agree. I didn't see it before because I was too in awe of the writing style. But you are right on. I hate it when girls want to get busy in the midst of death. So. Not. Sexy!

  2. I really liked Shatter Me. :) I do prefer Voice over plot though. If a voice grabs me, I'll love it even if the plot is weak. Does that even make sense? Maybe I'm weird! :)

  3. I'm a total voice person. If the voice is super fabulous, there could be no plot at all and I'd be okay with it, lol.

    I think I read one book that was totally that way. It had a plot, but it sorta took backseat in comparison to the hilarious voice of the mc.

  4. Okay, now I've got to add another book to my TBR list so I can find out what the discussion is all about and find out where I lie on the plot vs. voice issue.

  5. Ha! I loved the voice. That's what drew me in. The plot was decent. Tell your book club friend to stick it. ha ha...but really. I'm leaving to colorado springs today. Wish I was coming to vegas...sniff.

  6. I'm more of a plot person, but there are times when the voice is what draws me in for sure!

  7. If the voice is amazing I will usually like the book, but if the plot isn't there it will NEVER be a great book for me. I'm a plot girl. And plot is easier to pull off then voice. If you can do voice why not just beef up the plot?

  8. I totally love me a fabulous plot. However, that doesn't mean I would choose it over voice. It doesn't mean I would choose voice over plot, though, either.

    My thoughts on SHATTER ME: The plot was a 2. The voice was a 5. Yes, I was bugged by the plot, and thought of a million little things that could've made it better. BUT, the voice was SO STRONG. And the metaphors were SO PERFECT. And the writing style was SO BEAUTIFUL, I wanted to drink all the words.

    So the way I see it is like this. An author can't be good at EVERYTHING, unless they are a freak of nature. They just can't. Every author has a thing or two they are really good at, and a thing or two they are less good at. But some authors are INCREDIBLY good at a thing or two. And when that part shines so brightly, I can totally excuse the parts that didn't so much. Regardless of what those parts are.

  9. I prefer plot over voice, but everyone is going to read and experience something differently. It sounds like you got a lot of perspective on a book that you loved. Personally, I would really enjoy this because how good is a discussion where someone totally agrees with you?

    You say, "I love this book."

    they say, "Me too."

    Together you say..."that's great," and then both sigh in unison.

    discussion over.

  10. I prefer plot over voice. The voice in Shatter Me was beyond irritating. Geez, talk about a drama queen. She would go on and on about one tiny little thing, and the whole time I'm thinking, God, would you just get over it already! But, I did like the story, at least enough to keep reading, even with the nails-on-a-chalkboard voice. But I also agree, the ending wasn't great. There really wasn't much to the story at all. It seems the whole book was just backstory for the series to come. Then again, that seems to be the way YA works these days. You could never get away with that in adult fiction. I really don't see what all the fuss is about with Shatter Me.

  11. I'll be honest and say that I'm a plot-person. I like story. Not that a great voice doesn't make a great read, or that it isn't necessary in a book, but I'm much happier to be carried along by a story than by a voice. I haven't checked out Shatter Me yet, so this may be a bit premature :)

  12. Darn them Jessie! Darn them! ahhhh! Okay - not really. But I loved this book too. FOR REAL! I just think the plot was a little different. The climatic ending was slightly before the end... then there was more info for the "to be continued..." next book. It was different, but I still liked it. Plus - all the other reasons you mentioned about liking it AND she did great with the characters and relationships. Very cool book.

  13. I'm a total plot person, and just recently have come to realize how important voice is. I guess when the voice is good I just read and don't notice it as good or bad, because it reads naturally and I don't have to pause. But when the plot is weak, or it drags- like Stephen King, I usually force myself to finish it, but am frustrated and disappointed.

  14. personal preference...
    i like to have both
    but thats what scares me about a crit group/reading group
    i'm afraid it would be hard to find a group to click with

  15. I think prob plot weighs a little higher on my list. I LOVE LOVE LOVE beautiful writing and a unique voice. But I need something to carry me along and thats where plot does it for me. Having said that, great plot will completely SUCK if the author is a terrible writer. aaargh.
    And sidenote, i hate it when i love a book and everybody else doesnt. sigh. Makes me just want to creep away in a corner with my fave book and read it all over again, muttering "My precccciousssss!"

  16. I think plot plays a little higher on my list, too. I do love me an amazing voice, but if there's no plot, I get annoyed to no end.

    Wow, I haven't been to a book club in ages. Maybe I should!

  17. I lean more in favor of voice. I'd rather read a strong voice with a weaker plot over a strong plot with no voice. I've read several books that had an amazing and unique plot, but the voice didn't come through and I always thought "if only the writing was as unique and good as the story here..."

  18. There are books I've read that had weak plots, but I kept reading because the writing was so good. Conversely, I've read books with weak writing, but such cool plots that I wanted to know how it ends. Voice AND plot for me! :)

  19. Voice draws me into the book and plot keeps me reading. If the plot sucks, I usually stop reading, I don't care how special the voice is.

  20. I usually lean toward strong/interesting writing over plot... though voice can be a love-it/hate-it thing, whereas as an engaging plot is probably more universal.

  21. I'm more of a plot person. Of course, if I can't stand the voice I'll never read enough to figure out what the plot is, but books need to have an amazing plot to make my list of favorites.

    I read a sample of Shatter Me and it's not for me, which makes me sad because I was so hoping to love it.