Someone commented to me that she felt my books are mainly character-driven. I agreed, but vowed to do some investigating on the age-old controversy: Character-driven vs. plot driven. Is there a clear winner?
Here’s what I found:
Character-driven writing focuses on the inner conflict of the characters that you’ve created—their attitudes, decisions, and how they, in turn, change the shape of the plot and the story as a whole. Character driven is often referred to as “literary fiction” since it features characters that possess multiple layers that are exposed as the story develops.
The emphasis is on characterization, inner conflict and relationships. The story often depicts the character’s inner struggle to resolve issues from their past, such as overcoming grief, learning to live again, mending broken relationships.
Plot-driven stories place a larger emphasis on the actual plot itself. Factors such as plot twists, action and external conflict are what make up the focus of this style of writing.
Often the story goals are more external such as obtaining, winning, escaping, or changing a situation. Defeating the bad guy, catching a murderer, solving a mystery are some examples.
A good story will certainly have some of both, but there is almost always a heavier focus on one over the other.
Take a look at your own writing. Is it character or plot-driven?
A fun exercise is to rewrite a page. Make it more character-driven, if you write plot-driven. Change it from character driven to plot-driven, if that is not what you would normally write.
You may find that adding just a little more of your “non-preferred” style to your writing may give it more depth, richness, and excitement.
And that’s the clear winner.