Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Plot or Character?

Currently Reading Podcast recently talked about plot-driven vs character-driven and it had me very nerdy excited because this is a concept I've always loved.

A plot-driven novel is built around action. One thing happens after another and we're turning those pages to see what happens next. Most suspense novels are plot-driven. (My favorites these days are Brandilyn Collins and Colleen Coble)

A character-driven novel is about what happens within a person as a result of what's happening in the plot. A character-driven novel could easily take place in one scene, even one moment, since so much of it is taking place in its characters' hearts and minds. It's rare that I see one exclusively character-driven, since plot gives us a reason to move into a character, but an example I can think of off the top of my head is Catcher in the Rye, which all takes place during one therapy session and is centered exclusively around our protagonist's thoughts / perceptions / hatred of phonies. (I reeeeeeally loathed this book, which made me think for years I preferred plot-driven novels. False).

I agree with Currently Reading's assessment that a good novel contains both enticing plot and deep character development, however, I slide far closer to character development if we're looking at a sliding scale. Stephen King was my favorite secular author in my younger years and I suspect this is why. I can't read his books at all these days but I always loved exploring so much of a character's thoughts and perceptions through a crazy plot.

If a book is reviewed as fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, or page-turner, but doesn't mention rich characters or characters who feel like friends I know a book likely isn't for me.

I still love a good suspense novel from time to time but a light-hearted contemporary romance or a clever, fast-paced dilemma just won't leave me with the same satisfied sigh a good character-driven story will. 

Figuring this out (only a few years ago, mostly thanks to What Should I Read Next) made such a huge difference for me and now it's very rare for me to dislike a book, even by a new author. I know what I like and seek it out, but also know when I'm in the mood for a fast-paced plot twist instead.

Maybe you already know which you prefer but if not, I encourage you to explore your reading tastes in this way and find a few more homeruns. 

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Thanks so much for your comments! I always read them, don't always have time to answer quickly. Sorry about that!