WRITING CHRONICLE #28: character-driven vs. plot-driven

Via: Daily Prompt – Elastic & Superficial


I think most authors, at least in the initial stages of their career, tend to lean towards writing either character-driven or plot-driven stories. Whether your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven is trivial, as both styles work suitably and most readers are able to dive into either form of literature with easy appreciation. What is important to remember when you write, regardless of which way you lean, is that the plot and characters in either narrative forms do not act independently of one another. Whichever style you may choose, the plot and characters each influence the outcome of the other and should work cohesively towards heightening the conflict and deriving the resolution to keep the story moving or having any true meaning. With experience, of course, it is hoped that our writing styles achieve a bit more pliancy with regards to these two types of narrative.


And the first step towards that endeavor is to realize WHAT EACH OF THESE COURSES OF NARRATIVE TRULY REPRESENT:

A CHARACTER-DRIVEN STORY deals with the internal and/or interpersonal conflicts of the character(s). It focuses on the inner transformations of a character or the character’s relationship with other characters in the story. Such a story aims to showcase the MC’s character arc, i.e. how he/she grows throughout the story. The character-driven story relies upon the plot to develop the character. The story offers a series of events through which the character arrives upon the elemental question that defines his/her transformation, or the transformation of his/her relationship with another. The character-driven story has the advantage of connecting at a deeper level with the reader because the characters are so often realistic and relatable.

A PLOT-DRIVEN STORY is one that focuses on events rather than the transformation of the character(s). The character undergoes a sequence of plot points, each of which compels him/her to make a choice, which then either works towards or against the character’s goals, pushing the story forward and backward, creating a story arc. The plot-driven story showcases how a character responses to the situations he/she is thrown into, often depending on split-second decisions rather than deep-seated character motivations. The conflict lies in the circuitous plot that all act in opposition to the MC’s goal(s). The plot-driven story has the advantage of plot twists, actions, and external conflicts which build the tension and keeps reader motivated through to the end.


In the CHARACTER-DRIVEN STORY, it is through the story arc (a.k.a. plot arc) that the character achieves transformation, whether reconciling with self or another. The events in the story push the character(s) to question their own motivations and desires as well as face their fears and flaws, thus helping the character arc to take shape.

E.g. The Big Bang Theory, where we witness Sheldon Cooper, an awkward academic genius who, through a series of mishaps and advisement of his friends, learns to navigate the emotional intricacies of the human mind and proper etiquette of the social scheme.

In the PLOT-DRIVEN STORY, who the character(s) is/are will decide how they respond to the situations they are thrown into. The character(s) still work towards a goal and the plot points act as the conflicts that keep the character(s) from achieving the end game, hence developing the story arc.

E.g. Supernatural and the Winchester Brothers, who are forced to vanquish the various monsters-of-the-week and, though they each love the other dearly, the situation pushes them to act against each other’s decisions as often as working together.


I confess that my stories tend to be more character-driven. And while the plot does help my characters to “discover who they are” or “what they need”, I’m still mastering how to make my stories full of page-turning plot twists.

Which narrative course do you prefer to employ when writing your stories? Or for that matter, as a reader, are you generally drawn towards plot-driven or character-driven stories?

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  1. #1 by gilian on October 8, 2017 - 8:21 pm

    Though I always say I will not write a novel or story, I feel that I might one day do it as I read and get inspired by writers who do one. This is nice. I would like to do both or maybe I’d go for the character driven one. I find it more moving.:)

    • #2 by lupa08 on October 8, 2017 - 8:59 pm

      I feel the same, about character-driven stories being moving and, therefore, more my forte. Although, plot-driven stories make for exciting reads 😃
      Thanks for reading 😊

  2. #3 by David on October 8, 2017 - 8:24 pm

    Nice post which came at a good time. Thank you. I am having the same character vs plot, internal vs external action problem with a narrative I can’t seem to fit into any templates. I agree, we need a little of both to be engaging.

    • #4 by lupa08 on October 8, 2017 - 9:00 pm

      Thank you for reading and I am glad if the post helps you overcome your writing challenge. Good luck with your story! 😃

  3. #5 by Louise@DragonspireUK on October 10, 2017 - 4:36 pm

    My stories are character driven every time. I think it works out that way because I love characters and find them easy to come up with, but find plotting so hard. I’m always drawn to character driven stories too. As long as the characters are amazing, I don’t mind if the plot is mediocre 🙂

    • #6 by lupa08 on October 11, 2017 - 9:44 pm

      I don’t suffer so much from the inability to come up with a plot as from developing a plot that is irrevocably sustainable. When reading, consistent well-rounded characters would make up greatly for a rudimentary plot – as long as it’s not implausible. Because even well-rounded characters are bound to behave insensibly in an impractical plot ;p

  4. #7 by ESP xtruck on October 16, 2017 - 8:08 pm

    The beauty is in symmetry, well defined characters carry the plot in themselves. Alternatively, a well developed plot will suck loosely developed characters into nuances and depth.

    • #8 by lupa08 on October 16, 2017 - 11:29 pm

      My sentiments, too! Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. #9 by jrusoloward on October 27, 2017 - 9:07 pm

    The two go hand-in-hand, for the most part. I think some authors may be stronger in one area than another, but dull, weak characters can’t be redeemed by a plot and vise versa.

    • #10 by lupa08 on October 27, 2017 - 11:35 pm

      I feel that too. We all have our forte but a novel works as whole and not just its parts.

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