Life in progress


Character-Driven vs Plot-Driven Stories

There are many writers out there who craft their stories based on a “what if” situation. They will come up with a scenario, such as “what if a meteor hit the earth?” or “what if a guy goes to the store and finds all the cars in the parking lot stacked on top of each other?”

These two scenarios may sound very similar, but they’re not. Yes, both start with the same three words, but the difference is this: the first revolves around a plot. The plot has yet to be populated by humans (assuming there are humans left alive after the meteor hit). The second scenario already has a human in it. Here may be the difference between a plot-driven story and a character-driven one.

For me, populating a story that contains a story first (aforementioned meteor crashing down) is near impossible. I can’t wrap my head around a crowd of people who have been plunked down in the middle of a situation. But give me a person to work with first, and I’m off and running. What any ONE person would do in a strange situation is fairly unique to that one person. That, to me, gives a story its excitement and its hook, if you will.

This whole topic came about when I started to think about how difficult it is for me to write a short story. Given a plot, I may be able to bang out a few words. But when I get my head wrapped around a character I find it hard to let go after just a few hundred words. I get attached to my characters very easily, and once I have them in my head I don’t just want to tell a bit of their story, I want to tell it all. Before I know it, I’m well on my way into a novel.

When I first began writing, I belonged to a Yahoo group in which a bunch of writers developed characters who not only interacted with one another, they told each other stories of their lives before they met one another. Quite like anyone would in real life. So I’m thinking about writing a character on my fiction blog rather than attempting and consistently failing to write short stories. Just a thought at the moment.

The character-driven story is a subject very dear to my heart. My characters become almost like  family to me, much as the characters do in some of the novels I read. Especially the ones I’m sad to put down when they’re finished.

I’d like to hear from the writers out there – do you write character-driven or plot-driven stories? Have you ever ventured out of your comfort zone and tried the other one?

And from the readers – have you ever become attached to a character that was so well written, you never wanted their story to end?