Character Driven Vs Plot Driven

I love to write, particularly fantasy pieces.  I wrote this wonderful story last year during SoCNoC which I called Medusa’s Garden, but strangely I have struggled with it since I wrote it.  I should have really, it is a great story – well to me it is.  But there was something about it that just hasn’t quite clicked.

Until I read Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.  He clearly defines Character Driven and Plot Driven stories.  This is what he says:

“Character Driven Stories – often implies a slower story with less action and more interior work.

Plot Driven Stories – heavy on the action and light on character work.”

This is a bit of a thunderbolt.  I have given Medusa out to people to read, and they probably think I am such a novice writer, yet I am not.  It is just that Medusa is a Character based story, focusing on the change within the person, whereas Chrystias, KQ&N are fantasy stories which are Plot driven.  I have had much more positive critique on KQ&N, so I have decided to put aside Medusa for now, and focus on something that is positive and good and work with that, and when I have the know-how, I will come back to Medusa’s Garden and make it stronger.

I think the bloody Gothic Novel is a combination of both, as it doesn’t really seem to have too much issue with it, and I am slowly working my way through this too, only because I am cautious about it being Character Driven, but the more I read, the more I believe it is a lovely blend of Character and Plot driven.

So now I know what the problem is, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix, right?  Wrong.  I have a little bit more research to do, and perhaps a visit to Greece to get a feel for the place might be in order… perhaps I need to buy a lotto ticket…


7 thoughts on “Character Driven Vs Plot Driven

  1. I’ve always thought of character driven stories, as those where the character drives the plot (events occur because of the characters’ actions, reactions and motivations), and plot-driven stories as those where plot drives the character (events force the character to act and react). That doesn’t mean that either should be slower or faster than the other. I’ve read some very fast paced character driven stories, and they’ve been fantastic.

    • They aren’t saying that character based are slow, they are slower in pace, because they focus more on the changes within the character.

      I too have read some fast action paced character stories, but Medusa’s Garden definitely ain’t one of them.

      I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that I write one better than the other, and that means another learning curve for me.

  2. The distinction is particully important in fantasy. I seldom read a character based that I am impressed with. Its more fun to read about dragons and knights trying to kill each other. Who wants to hear about them getting together and discussing the purpose of existance? Its one of the things that keeps killing my forays into science fiction.

    In saying that I have read some really great literary fiction that is more character based.

    @WritersBlockNZ – The distinction is not so much about the character driving events or events driving the character. Its about the focus. Is most of the story about events (Lord of the Rings) or internal struggles (The Lovely Bones).

    • Yes Boredmormon, the Lovely Bones was definitely a Character Based story. Catcher in the Rye is an old classic which is character based.

      Thrillers also tend to be character based because they are focusing on how it affects the person. I want to write a plot based thriller, but haven’t quite worked out how that would go…

  3. You’re right about Medusa being a character driven story and perhaps it’s because you usually write more plot driven stories that you’re having to work at this one more. Though I would never argue with an excuse to visit Greece!

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