When I write stories, they are always about the people. Sure, things happen, but those situations don’t drive the story – the character arcs do. How do you decide whether you should write character versus plot driven books? Well, in On Writing, Stephen King tells us that he believes the best books are character-driven and I agree.
However, everyone has a different writing style and just because you write plot-driven books doesn’t mean you should be creating flat, one-dimensional characters. Twist of Fate has an exciting, page-turning plot, but my focus was on Trevor and Brooklyn‘s psyches, growth and development rather than external events.
Character versus plot driven
Neither writing style is wrong and one isn’t better than the other. If you need some help determining where you fit on the spectrum, this guide is for you!
Character driven stories deal with relationships and internal transformation, making them a perfect tool for romance authors. Readers fall in love with the heroes (#bookboyfriends are real) and often want to emulate the heroine.
The plot is important, of course, but it’s used as a device to take the characters on their arc. Your characters need to be relatable, flawed, and have a sense of agency for readers to become emotionally invested.
- Throw the worst possible situations at characters and see how they react. Perfect is boring
- Make the environment a character. I adore writing dialogue, so editing is when I ensure the environment stands out as vividly as my characters
- Create doubt and tension even with a guaranteed outcome. Romance has a promised happily ever after (or at least happy for now), but Twist of Fate has some crazy plot twists (no pun intended) that left betas worried whether everyone would end up where they should be
- The art of character
- Plotting the character driven novel
- The no-plot plotting method for character-driven novels
- Creating character arcs
- Character development
Plot driven stories are exciting, fast-paced and highlight external events. Authors focus on plot points and ideas versus characters and their motivations. Characters need to make quick decisions (rather than agonizing over them and creating the angst romance is known for) to move the plot forward.
- Ensure characterization is consistent so decisions make sense and don’t feel contrived
- Remember, plot is a sequence of events connected by cause and effect. Even though characters are secondary, readers still need to care so they keep turning the pages to find out how the characters fare
- Keep backstory top of mine for you (not the reader). Everyone is influenced by their past and characters are no exception. You don’t have to reveal all the backstory (and please don’t, but that’s another post). However, you need to be aware so you can direct the story where it needs to go in a way that feels genuine
- Write great fiction: plot & structure
- Save the cat
- The secrets of story
- Bird by bird: some instructions of writing and life
- The emotional craft of fiction
Do you prefer to read and write character versus plot driven stories?
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