Shifting Into Literary Drive

There are a lot of elements that work in tandem to produce a good story. Central conflict, setting, characters, plot; I could go on. Writing style, the crafting of sentences and the like will give it its flavour. One of the well known distinctions of a novel, however, is whether it is character driven or plot driven, which is what I will be exploring in this post.

Trying to explore, anyway. It’s not like this is my very own literary course, but we’ll see how it goes.

The long and short of it is that a character driven story focuses on the development of the character(s) themself (or themselves), and how they come to make the choices they do. A plot driven story, on the other hand, focuses much more on action, so the choices themselves are generally more important in making the story happen than the characters are.

At the extreme, a plot driven story is the fast paced action novel, and a character driven story is the complicated character study. (However, there is bound to be an overlap of the two in literature.)

As writers, people will probably have some degree of preference for one over the other. From my and my mother’s observation, it would seem that I, for example, lean more towards the character driven style. I do enjoy exploring a character’s psyche, and my writing tends to not be a third person omniscient view, instead showing the story through the thoughts and feelings of one or a few characters. It may also explain why character dynamics are one of my favourite things to write.

Objectively, it doesn’t seem as though one is better than the other. While I enjoy the character driven style, the plot driven style is great at giving engaging situations in a story and keeping a reader on their toes. It doesn’t necessarily sacrifice good character development, but the plot itself is at the forefront of the story. When it is character driven, it is the inverse.

Regardless of whether your story is driven by plot or character, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put effort into whichever isn’t the most important in your story. A novel falls if the plot isn’t well developed. A novel falls if the characters aren’t well developed, too. While favouring either in itself isn’t bad, it is still important to craft each, along with the other elements of storytelling. No one probably needs to hear that from me, however: reading anything that obviously didn’t put attention into its plot or its characters stands out like a sore thumb.

Thumb sayings aside, it’s a cool axis to look at overall. It’s also interesting to exam different authors and see on which side they fall more. The overlap truly begins when it is acknowledged that both plot and characters are important for a good story, leading to an attempt to balance it out a bit more. Now that I have done a bit of research on each, it will be interesting to examine my own writing in that light, as well as the writing of others.