Friday, April 1, 2011

A: Agency

This is where I attempt to study and blog at the same time. Watch a fool juggle! (or drop both balls. We'll see.)

In my anthropology class we have a lot of discussions about agency vs. cultural structure. In this context agency is simply any person's ability to change or go against society despite the structure --or at least move themselves into a different place within it. The dynamics between the two is fascinating in and of itself but I always understand concepts better after I've related them to writing. Or maybe I just relate them to writing even if I already understand them. Because I can. At any rate . . .

Think of agency as your characters and structure as your plot.

In one regard all characters need agency. They need to act on their own free will and conscious against their adversaries within the story but sometimes they also need a little freedom to work against your plot structure in order to stay life-like. On the other hand, if you allow your characters to drive all your writing decisions your plot could very well end up a rambling mess. This depends a lot of course on an individual writer's style but I should like to put the question up for discussion.

How much "agency" do you allow (or believe that they have whether you give it to them or not) you characters to have and how much to you rely on your plot structure? How do you strike a balance between the two?


  1. good question. I think I allow my characters to move beyond the prescribed parameters I've set - sometimes it works, sometimes not so much :)

  2. It's all a balance I think. But sometimes, your characters can take you someplace you didn't expect. You can control what happens TO your character, and the character will tell you how he/she REACTS.