One question that we’re often asked when we do blog interviews is whether we’re plot-driven or character-driven when writing our stories. I’m never sure what to answer because you can’t have a plot without a character, and whatever happens to a character is part of the plot.
It’s said that a plot-driven story focuses on the action, while a character-driven story focuses on a character’s thoughts. But that seems far too simplistic to me.
Surely plot-driven stories should also show how the action changes the characters? If a character’s goals or motivations or reactions aren’t important to the plot, then he or she is simply ‘there’ during the action, but remains as lifeless as a cardboard cut-out figure.
Equally, character-driven stories must have enough action to give the reasons for change. If a character simply wakes up one morning, and decides to change his/her whole way of life, without anything triggering that decision, then you don’t really have a plot!
You may start off with a plot and generate the characters to suit that story, or you may start off with the characters and generate the events that bring them together or keep them apart. Does it really matter which you start with?
The goal seems to be to have a good mixture of characters and actions. If you can interweave the characters’ emotional development with a dramatic action plot, then you have the best of both worlds and, hopefully, a story that keeps the reader turning the pages.