Paula wonders whether we need to choose.
A blog interview question
asking ‘Are your stories plot driven or character driven?’ made me wonder what the
difference is between these.
One definition I found was
that ‘character driven’ means the story concentrates on characterisation,
internal conflict, and relationships, with the characters changing an attitude
or otherwise resolving a personal problem. ‘Plot driven’ seems to describe
stories with more emphasis on plot twists, external conflict, and action. The
goal in these is to win, escape, or change a situation.
At first glance, it’s easy to
say ‘character driven’ applies to romances, while ‘plot driven’ applies to
mysteries or thrillers.
However, I don’t think it’s
as simple as that. A romance story which concentrates on internal agonising and/or
problems in a developing relationship can soon become tedious. A thriller or
mystery, with no characterisation of the protagonists, soon becomes a puppet
show, where the characters are jerked around with lots of action, but no
motivation or emotions.
I believe we have to combine
the two aspects to create a good story, whether it’s a romance or a thriller. We
need the ‘real’ characters of the character driven stories, with their hopes
and fears, strengths and weaknesses. Yes, they may have internal conflicts to
resolve, they may need to change an attitude or learn some kind of lesson. But
if they are only doing this within the confines of a developing relationship,
with not much else happening to influence them or hinder them, it won’t
be a very interesting story, unless your reader is interested in the psychology
of relationships and the inner workings
of your characters’ minds.
Therefore we need the plot
twists, and the external action to keep the reader turning the pages.
Would ‘Gone With the Wind’
have worked if it had just shown the relationship between Scarlett and Rhett in
peaceful, uneventful times? Would a Civil War story work
if we didn’t get involved in the characters’ lives and loves?
To my mind, stories need to
be both character driven and plot driven. I start mine with the growing seed of
a situation/plot into which I throw my characters. After that, plot and
characters develop equally and interact throughout the story.
How about you? Are you plot
driven or character driven?