Plot-Driven Stories Vs. Character-Driven Stories: What You Need to Know
Writing fiction is tricky. There are plenty of things you want to consider, such as the themes you want to cover, the characters you need to create, and the story you want to tell.
You also need to decide if you want to write a plot-driven or character-driven story. Most stories are based on one of these writing styles. They may also carry a mixture of the two.
The style you choose primarily depends on the story you have in mind and what interests you. For example, if you enjoy delving into complex characters and portraying internal conflicts over external ones, you might opt to write a character-driven story. Read on as we discuss how these two writing styles work.
What Is a Plot-Driven Story and How Can You Write One?
As the name suggests, plot-driven stories focus on the plot itself. The plot drives the story forward and consists of exciting incidents, external conflicts, and action sequences. Characters often make quick decisions, and the author may focus more on moving the story along than developing the character.
Some common examples of plot-driven stories include Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, The Da Vinci Code, and other stories belonging to the sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery genres. Writing a plot-driven story can appear easier than a character-driven one. However, such stories come with their own set of challenges.
Let’s look at some of the things you need to keep in mind when writing a plot-driven story.
The Plot Points
As the name implies, a plot-driven story relies heavily on a well-crafted plot. You need to sketch out the plot points to ensure a well-structured story that follows a logical sequence of ideas. You’ll have to invest some time in planning your story here and defining arcs to ensure the final product is something worth reading.
The External Conflicts
As mentioned earlier, external conflicts play a critical role in a plot-driven story. You need to create several compelling incidents that can drive the story forward in a logical manner and keep the reader hooked until the end.
The Plot Twists and Climax
Stories that take on a plot-driven approach need an exciting plot twist and climax that can add an element of surprise to the story and subvert the expectations of your audience. It’s important to exercise some care here.
You don’t want to add an illogical plot twist to shock your readers. This approach can diminish their overall enjoyment of reading the story. Instead, you should opt for a smart climax that surprises your readers, while still helping you create a cohesive story that makes sense.
What is a Character-Driven Story and How Can You Write One?
A character-driven story focuses on the journey of the character and their development instead of the plot. This writing style involves internal conflicts and challenges that force the character to step out of their comfort zone and grow during the story. A few examples of character-driven stories include Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Jane Austen’s Emma. Autobiographies are also examples of character-driven stories.
Unlike plot-driven stories, character-driven stories focus on the following aspects:
The Character’s Backstory
To write a strong character-driven story, you need to spend time fleshing out your character and creating a compelling backstory that explains their current predicaments and offers a logical reason for their motivations and choices. This element also helps the reader understand the character more deeply.
The Internal Conflicts
Character-driven stories are primarily driven by internal conflicts. There may be some external stimuli that trigger these conflicts but there is very little outward action happening here. For instance, in Jane Austen’s Emma, we see the protagonist re-evaluate herself, her priorities, and her affection for Mr. Knightley after her fallout with him. Seeing his apparent closeness with Harriet Smith also exacerbates things, and she realizes how foolish she has been.
Her vanity and stubbornness are also a source of the main conflicts in the story. These flaws manifest themselves in everything from her insistence on matchmaking Harriet with Mr. Elton, failing to understand Frank Churchill’s motivations, and her misperceptions of Jane Fairfax. Austen deftly uses Emma’s personal flaws to drive the story forward and make it an engaging read.
The Character’s Arc
A character-driven story typically corresponds to the arc you have written for the main character. You’ll have to figure out incidents that can help with their character development and allow them to transform. You want to spend some time creating character sketches so you can understand how your characters think and how they would react to certain incidents. This approach can also help you write a strong climax that aligns with their journey and offers a good conclusion.
Wrapping It Up
Both plot-driven and character-driven stories come with their advantages and disadvantages. The style you choose depends on your strengths as a writer and the story you want to share with the world.
If you need help, we suggest you reach out to the editors at Edit911. We offer fiction editing services and can help you strengthen your story and remove any errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Talk to us today to learn more!