Plot-Driven vs. Character-Driven

Published April 18, 2009 by Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

I’ve had a realization over the last few days.  I’ve always thought of myself as writing character-driven books, and I’ve realized that I’m actually plot-driven.  I think I confused characterization with character-driven, and they’re not the same thing.

Consider this from Tameri Guide for Writers on Plot-Driven:

A plot-driven story captivates readers or audiences through the excitement of events. The characters are important, but the action takes precedence.

That description fits the thriller genre perfectly, and certainly fits some urban fantasy.  Even a detective novel would be plot-driven because the readers are coming in to see the character solve the mystery. 

This is what Tameri had to say on Character-Driven:

Character-driven stories rely on interesting characters and their responses to situations. While the situations arise from the plot, readers or audiences remember the characters.

On one of my previous projects ( a thriller), the story was set during the Civil War.  A Federal army officer was off on his own agenda, but he had to stop a fellow junior officer named Babcock who knew too much.  Very briefly, I considered a scene where the major orders Babcock’s regiment to come after Babcock, using a lie the soldiers believe.  Babcock realizes that, and he’s caught in the position of knowing his men will kill him to follow orders or to kill his own men for following orders based on a lie.  That never got past the thought stage because it would have been a distraction in the action-based story.  Now I undertand why it didn’t fit.  Action in the story took precedence, and such a direction would have been a distraction for what I wanted to do overall with the story.

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