11 Books For Plot-Driven People
There are lots of reasons I absolutely love books. Sometimes, it's because of the incredibly enchanting worlds within them, and other times, it's because I fall madly for the characters. But, if I really had to choose one thing that brings me the most pleasure in a read, it'd have to be the plot. Yup, I'm a plot kind of person.
"Isn't everyone?" you may be asking, or at least saying to your computer screen, since I doubt we're in the same room. My answer, in any case, is "not exactly." Although there are various genres that books can fit into, in a broader sense, books often fall into two schools of writing: plot-driven and character-driven . In a character-driven work, most of the action is caused by an internal conflict within the characters, whereas a plot-driven work relies on external forces to bring the conflict. Generally, many people tend to think that plot-driven books are faster paced and lighter, but as you'll see in this list, that's not always the case.
I can't say no to good story about struggle against adversity, or a run to survive, or love against all odds. If you're the kind of person who loves that sort of thing as well and are looking for your next fix, check out the books below. From YA to fantasy, there's a little something for every plot-lover.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
When Thomas wakes up with no memories in an elevator on the way to a place called The Glade, he meets a group of boys who are trapped in the same predicament. Their mission seems to be to stay alive while solving a giant labyrinth covered in ivy and full of murderous creatures called the Maze . Everything changes one day when a girl shows up at the Glade, causing the mechanics of the place to go out of whack, and putting everyone in danger. It's up to the kids to figure out not only how to escape, but why they were there in the first place. The Maze Runner is book one of a series of insane twists and turns.
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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
YA novels love a good specialized dystopia, and Uglies was one of the first of them to come out. Set in a world where once people hit the age of 16 they are put through an operation to make them incredibly beautiful , thus opening them up to a world of nothing but fun in a high tech paradise, 15-year-old Tally is only a few weeks away from such a future. A wrench is thrown into her situation when her best friend Shay runs away and Tally is tasked with finding her... or she'll never become pretty.
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Degrassi Junior High meets The Most Dangerous Game ! A class of a Japanese Junior High School students are taken to a deserted island and armed with weapons . Their one job: kill everyone until there is only one standing. Part of a totalitarian regime in an alternate history, it's a slightly more down to earth version of The Hunger Games (and was written before that trilogy too), but packed with so many human moments and high octane thrills, it's easy to forget the similarities and love it based on its own merits.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
In a world where decadent and dangerous walled cities called Coldtowns exist and mix human with monster , you are never allowed to leave once you pass through the gates. Tana lives a perfectly ordinary life outside of a Coldtown, until one day she wakes up from a party surrounded by corpses and finds one of the other survivors — her ex-boyfriend — infected by vampirism. It's up to her and another mysterious boy to go into the heart of Coldtown to find a cure.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
It's the year 2044, and most of humanity escapes the bleakness of day to day living by jacking into OASIS, a virtual utopia made up of thousands of worlds . Wade Watts is one of those players, and dreams one day of finding a hidden easter egg stipulated in the will of the late James Halliday, the creator of OASIS, whose clues are hidden in pop culture from the late 20th century. After becoming one of the first players to find the first three keys necessary to unlock the egg, Wade is sent on an insane journey full of danger as his virtual life steadily eclipses his real one. Ready Player One is set almost entirely in OASIS, but the stakes have never been higher.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
A classic if there ever were one, The Last Unicorn follows the tale of (unsurprisingly) the only unicorn left in the world . Shocked at this realization and honor bound to find the missing unicorns lest the world lose its sense of wonder and innocence, she teams up with Schmendrick, a disgraced magician and Molly Grue, a member of a group of thieves who is still pure-hearted enough to be able to see a unicorn. Together they attempt to find the Red Bull, a creature who has been driving the unicorns to an unknown place. After an unfortunate showdown with the creature, the last unicorn finds herself trapped in the body of a mortal human girl and living in a castle with the terrible King Haggard and his handsome son Lir. Torn between her sense of duty and her blossoming feelings for the handsome prince, the unicorn must decide whether to abandon her journey (and her true self) or find the others (and break her heart in the process).
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
There are a lot of ways you can experience the story of Neverwhere , be it the television serial that spawned the novel, the comic book series, or even the all-star radio adaptation featuring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormier, and Benedict Cumberbatch (I highly recommend this one), the book nevertheless stands on its own. Richard Mayhew is a normal man living in London, with a high paying job, a beautiful fiancée, and the world at his feet. All of this changes the moment he discovers a girl named Door lying on the sidewalk, and after spending an evening helping her he finds that he no longer seems to exist. This kicks off a terrific adventure in a secret underground version of London, where Richard and a motley crew of individuals work together to protect Door from the malicious intentions of professional killers Misters Croup and Vandemar.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a modern young writer, inexplicably finds herself taken from her home in California and brought to a pre-Civil War plantation in Maryland . There she meets her ancestors, a spoiled white slave owner and a strong black freewoman he has forced back into slavery. As Dana's stays in the past become longer and far more dangerous, she must figure out a way to survive while also taking a look at her relationship with her husband, a white man also trapped into time traveling involuntarily. Grim, beautiful, and ultimately heartbreaking, this book is an unflinching look at not only the past of the characters, but the history of the United States.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
It's the Christmas season in a not-too-distant future version of Oxford, where time travel has made the History department ten times more interesting than it is right now. The holiday spirit hasn't stopped young student Kivrin Engle from wanting to travel to the Middle Ages as part of her studies. After a malfunction leaves Kivrin stranded in the 14th century , and Oxford of the future is hit with a deadly influenza outbreak, Professor James Dunworthy must do everything in his power to save her. Doomsday Book features a unique look at time travel, a harrowing plot, and is probably one of the most devastating books you can read. As the winner of more than 11 Hugo awards and seven Nebulas, Connie Willis has won more major awards than any other writer, and with good reason.
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
For those who like a little world building with their plot, Perdido Street Station begins with eccentric scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin receiving a request from Yagharek, a member of a bird-like species who recently had his wings cut off. In the course of his research to fix the problem, he ends up unleashing a nightmare upon the city of New Crobuzon, and must race to fix it . In the meantime, his insectile artist girlfriend Lin has been commissioned to do a sculpture of mob boss Mr. Motley, and things grow more dangerous for her as the two plots intertwine. Perdido Street Station is dense, visceral, with a world built as thickly as its plot. It's not for the faint-hearted, but the story will stick with you long after you've finished reading it.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
You may remember Haruki Murakami from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle , and this story holds no less of the strange magic inherent in his works. Set in 1984, professional assassin Aomame follows the cryptic instructions of a taxi driver and ends up in a strange alternate version of her world that she refers to as 1Q84 . Concurrently, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a ghostwriting project that slowly causes him to become obsessed with the eccentric author that ordered it. Over the course of a year, Aomame and Tengo must confront the strangeness of their realities, while trying to run from the tireless attentions of Ushikawa, an investigator hired by a mysterious and ultimately dangerous commune.
Image: Paul Bence /flickr
Character Driven v. Plot Driven Writing: What’s the Difference?
Dec. 9th, 2014
Before you start your book publishing journey, it’s always a great idea to learn as much as you can about the craft of writing. Whether it’s the importance of outlines , the basics of literary devices or even turning your novel into a screenplay , learning is an important part of the process.
Additionally, determining what will drive your writing style is also a crucial piece of the writing puzzle.
Perhaps the two most common examples are character-driven writing and plot-driven writing.
If you aren’t familiar with these writing styles, here is a quick overview: Character-driven writing is focused on the characters and the internal change, more so than the events and situations that take place while plot-driven writing is focused on the actual happenings and the external changes of the story.
It can sound confusing. Let’s delve into the details and explore the differences a bit further.
Character-driven – As previously mentioned, character-driven writing focuses on the inner conflict of the characters that you’ve created. If you choose to use this writing style, your reader will spend time thinking about the characters and their attitudes, personal evolutions and decisions, and how those, in turn, change the shape of the plot and the story as a whole.
Plots that are character driven are commonly referred to as “literary fiction” due to the fact that they feature characters that possess multiple layers that are exposed as the story develops.
Here’s an example to give you a better understanding of this writing style. Let’s say that Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations , who displays villainous characteristics, all of a sudden began exuding positive qualities. That change in Cruella de Vil would in turn alter the dynamic of the story completely. This internal change of the character is an example of character-driven writing.
Plot driven – Plot-driven stories, on the other hand, 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. In most cases, the goals of the story are more external in that they are focused on the development of a situation.
In plot-driven novels, the characters are usually forced to make quick decisions and, as a result, the development of the characters takes a back seat to the rapidly evolving story.
Examples of plot-driven writing are commonly found in genres such as fantasy, romance novels and mysteries, to name a few.
One way to look at this style of writing is to think of plot-driven stories as the tracks of a rollercoaster. The plot is the track and the reader follows that track throughout your book. From the moment your reader boards the rollercoaster car (opens your book), he or she is taken for a ride with your words and ideas through the twists, turns and loops of your plot, which ultimately leads them to the end of their ride. In essence, without the rollercoaster track (plot), the reader could not experience the thrill of the ride (your story).
On one side of the fence you have the character-driven writing style, where the main focus of your story is on the development of characters. And on the other side you have the plot-driven writing style, where the plot takes center stage and the characters are added accessories.
However, whichever side of the fence you choose to be on, the commonality between character- and plot-driven writing is that you’ll be taking the necessary steps to bringing your book idea to life!
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The Guide to Writing Plot Driven vs Character Driven Stories
POSTED ON May 5, 2023
Written by Zara Choudhry
In storytelling, writers usually take one of two approaches to move the story along – these are either plot-driven or character-driven.
Plot-driven stories are ones that focus on a series of events, whereas character-driven stories are all about development of the characters which then shapes the plot itself.
This Comparision of Plot Driven vs Character Driven Books Covers:
What is a plot-driven story .
A plot-driven book is centered on events. They consist of gripping scenes that help the story move along swiftly to keep the reader engaged. Genres that tend to stick to a plot-driven approach include action-adventure, horror, fantasies, and sci-fi novels.
Although these stories still need interesting and relatable characters, there is generally less focus on their personalities and more attention on their choices and what is happening. There's often a larger-than-life inciting incident that calls one or more of the characters to make a big choice or go on adventure, setting the stage for the rest of the story.
Examples of plot-driven stories include The Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park where the aim is to ‘ build a world ’ around the characters and to let that take the lead rather than the characters themselves.
Tips for Writing a Plot-Driven Story
Plot-driven stories require a lot more preparation and mapping out before putting pen to paper, and this is because you’ll want to know where your story is leading to.
- Outline Your Story Before Writing: Figure out how you want your story to begin, what the middle of the narrative looks like, and where your story will end up. A never-ending narrative with no direction can be super frustrating for the reader!
- Figure Out the Twists: What are the major twists your story is going to take and when are you going to add them in? To keep the story gripping, you’ll want to throw in a few curveballs (just not too many as this can get a little messy!).
- Be Logical With Your Sequence: You’ll want to carefully map out your plot points so that the narrative is well-developed and clear. Highlight the cause and effect when planning your plot so the story is easy to follow.
Examples of Plot-Driven Books
The majority of sci-fi , mysteries , horror , and action-adventure are plot-driven because they focus on creating a fictional world around the characters. Here are a few examples of books that put the plot ahead of character bio development .
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
This action-packed storyline is what grips the reader throughout rather than the characters themselves. The various twists and turns that Jurassic Park takes is what keeps the story moving forward.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Of course, we are all familiar with our main girl, Katniss, but what keeps this book so intriguing is the Hunger Game itself! The fight scenes and element of ‘struggling to survive’ is based on the trials the characters have to go through which makes this story plot-driven.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Following the story of a modern black woman drawn back to the slave quarters through time-travel, Kindred focuses on the choices of the character instead of the development of her personality.
What is a Character-Driven Book?
Character-driven books are stories that center on the internal world of the character, their different character motivations , their relationships and how they develop throughout.
They’re all about highlighting the finer details and flaws of a dynamic character and how their personality drives the story forward.
A writer’s aim with a character-driven plot is to make the reader deeply connect with the main character by giving a backstory, showcasing their internal conflict and giving their perspective on what is going on.
While plot-driven stories focus on what is happening, character-driven stories focus on why something is happening.
Tips for Writing a Character-Driven Story
- Give a Backstory on the Character: What type of character are they? Why is the main character the way they are? Does it come from a past childhood trauma or inner conflict? Where did they come from and where do they want to end up?
- Focus on Voice and Perspective: The reader wants to know what the character is thinking along the way. For this, you can break conventional grammar rules to give the character a unique voice and map out their thoughts.
- What Makes Your Character Interesting?: If we’re basing the story on a main protagonist, we need to make them as intriguing as possible to drive the story forward. Think about their big and small flaws, their responses, how they manage the relationships around them.
Examples of Character-Driven Stories
Here are a few examples of books that utilize strong character development to propel the story forward.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Telling the story of young girl, Kya, the reader is informed of her early childhood trauma which explains her curiosity, bravery and stubbornness as she grows older. Focusing on her relationship with nature, Kya’s traits lead the storyline.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye takes us on a journey with teenage boy Holden Caulfield who struggles with elements of mortality, identity and personal connection. Caulfield’s ideological dreaming and love for his youth is what the reader is reminded of throughout the story.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Following the main lead, Holly Golightly, this story is all about her personal struggles and complexities, making this book extremely character-driven.
Do Readers Prefer Character-Driven or Plot-Driven Books?
Plot driven vs character driven? It really depends on the reader!
Many readers prefer character-driven stories because they enjoy becoming a part of the character’s inner world and understanding why they think the way they do and how the person develops. These stories tend to be a lot more relatable and easier to connect with, meaning they have a lasting impact on the reader.
On the contrary, plot-driven stories can be more reliable and gripping. You never know the twists and turns the story may take which gives a lot more freedom to the writer himself. If you want your reader to feel a sense of escapism, we’d recommend opting for a plot-driven approach so that elements of sci-fi, fantasy and dystopia can be brought in.
There are some books that manage to find a balance between both approaches. These novels have a high-concept sequence of events while not neglecting the development of the characters and vice versa.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it and it’s all about which approach you feel most comfortable with!
How to write a book in 12 simple steps [free book template], how long does it take to write a book (2023 author guide), what is your book genre a guide for authors.
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Character-Driven Vs. Plot Driven: Which is Best
As a writer, one of the very first things you’ll need to learn about yourself is if you prefer to focus on character or on plot.
Wait, why? Is it a binary choice where you have to prefer one or the other?
Sorta. But hear me out.
To me, the best stories have both great plots and incredible characters; but, that doesn’t happen by accident. It comes from the author understanding his or her writing style and making an effort to present a rounded story.
You see, there are two main types of writing styles: plot-driven or character-driven. Most writers naturally lean towards one writing style. But the best writers understand that they must balance their preferred storytelling to create a satisfying tale. By recognizing your writing preference, you will be able to identify the areas you need to balance.
Some writers prefer building an external world focused entirely on action. These writers enjoy strategically scattering breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. Other writers love delving into the psyche. They create rich and haunting character studies that stay with the reader longer after closing the book.
Which one are you?
Sometimes, the easiest way to figure out your writing preference is by examining your own preferences.
When you set out to write, do you come up with a riveting plot first or do you see a cast of compelling characters?
Don’t worry. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Many writers make the mistake of elevating characterization over plot, but one is not better than the other. An awesome character with nothing to do and no conflict to develop him or her is boring. It doesn’t matter how “interesting” the character is if you cannot create an antagonistic environment that chisels and defines that character.
But there are other writers who worship at the altar of action. If you’re one of those writers, you’re in good company. Greek philosopher Aristotle agrees with you. He believed that the plot was much more important than the characters of a story. Far be it for me to disagree with the esteemed Aristotle, but I will whisper this: even an awesome plot that takes the reader on the most mind-bending twists and turns will fall flat when depending on the strength of one dimensional characters.
No matter how you approach storytelling, remember this: your story needs both character and plot.
Below, I’d like to share a few thoughts I’ve learned along the way to help you whether you love writing unforgettable characters or structuring exciting plots.
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What is Plot?
One of my favorite ways to think of plot comes courtesy of E. M. Forster, in his book Aspects of the Novel . He says:
"'The king died and then the queen died,' is a story . ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot . The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it.”
So, a very basic definition of plot is a sequence of events that are connected by cause and effect.
The Hallmarks of a Plot-Driven Story
When you focus on plot, you focus on events.
Plot-driven stories are often exciting and fast-paced. They compel the reader to turn the page to find out how the characters will escape, evade, prevail, or overcome.
As an author of a plot-driven story, you have to meticulously tie together plot points to create a cohesive story. You naturally focus on ideas instead of people and their motivations.
In your story, you force your characters to make quick decisions that move the plot forwards. As a result, character development is secondary to plot development.
An excellent example of a plot-driven story is Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, a haunting time-travel slave narrative. The story is imaginative and relies on the choices that the characters make to move the story forward.
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What is a Character?
A character is the individual you use to tell your story.
Every novel has at least one character, even if that character is the reader (as is the case in a second person point of view ).
To be successful, your characters should be memorable, dimensional, and distinct from each other. They must have a sense of agency. In other words, your characters should own and control their actions within the world that you create.
The Hallmarks of a Character-Driven Story
A character-driven story is focused on studying the characters that make up your story. Character-driven stories can deal with inner transformation or the relationships between the characters.
Whereas plot-driven stories focus on a set of choices that a character must make, a character-driven story focuses on how the character arrives at a particular choice. When you zoom into the internal conflicts, you tend to focus less on the external conflicts. The plot in a character-driven story is usually simple and often hyper-focused on the internal or interpersonal struggle of the character(s).
In a character-driven story, the plot is used to develop the character.
Many readers love character-driven stories because the author tends to put a premium on developing realistic, flawed, and human characters. Readers can see themselves or someone they love in these characters and, as a result, connect emotionally.
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is one of my favorite examples of a character-driven story. She weaves together eight exquisite character studies of mother and daughter in a way that sticks to your bones.
How to Write a Plot-Driven Story
Now, let’s discuss what to keep in mind when you’re writing your plot-driven story.
- Remember that characters push the story forward.
The story shouldn’t move the characters like lifeless game pieces. It’s the characters that should move the story forward. The characters’ choices should impact the story and not be inconsequential.
While things will happen to the characters, your story is in how the characters respond to those things. And to figure out how your characters will and should respond to those circumstances, you must be clear on who your characters are.
Your story isn’t just about the character being acted upon, it’s also the character causing the action.
2. Take into account the character’s back story.
When deciding how the character will interact with the scene and drive the plot forward, you need to know more about the character.
One of the best things you can do to develop your characters is to create a character bible . This is especially important if you’re writing a plot-driven story and are afraid your characters may fall flat or come across as stereotypical or cookie-cutter.
3. Ask yourself about the character’s motivation.
Here’s a rapid-fire set of questions for you:
What’s the character’s motivation in every scene?
Why is the character making this decision and not that one?
What in the character’s background has led them to make this decision?
There’s no need to reveal an entire backstory to the reader. In fact, I’d rather you don’t. But it’s important that you know the motivation and that it’s consistent with your characterization. When you understand what’s motivating your character(s) to act, you can drop hints throughout your story. This can feel your readers understand your characters and feel more connected to them.
How to Write a Character-Driven Story
When you’re writing a character-driven story, you still need to inject cause and effect. Here’s how:
- Make sure the characters you create are actually doing something.
Your characters must interact and respond to their environment. In fact, that environment should in some way shape your characters. Your task is to decide how that environment does just that.
2. Don’t weaken the story to keep your characters “perfect”.
Perfect is boring. Oftentimes we, as writers, fall in love with a hero or heroine, and want to show only the good sides of him or her. We put that character in situations or circumstances where he or she will obviously win. But you need tension and doubt within your story. You need to create a read where the reader doesn’t know for sure if or how the character will overcome this obstacle.
You’ll do that by not going easy on the story.
A realistic character is a messy character. They’re going to make choices that the reader doesn’t agree with. That’s okay. In fact, it’s essential. It shows that the character is “real” and vulnerable.
3. Ask yourself this one question:
What’s the worse thing that can happen?
Now, throw it at your character(s). How do they respond? It may just surprise you.
Every now and then, you need to challenge your characters with the worst-case scenario. And, make it an external threat, not just an internal one. This is how the characters really learn what they’re made of-- and the readers, too.
Here are a few more resources to help you create a killer novel:
- Are Your Characters Under-Developed? Here's a Helpful Guide to Find Out
- Use These 5 Tips to Create a Backstory
- Your Guide to Creating Secondary Characters
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The Easiest Way to Start Writing Your Plot-Driven Story
In general, there are two main types of writers: plotters and pantsers.
I’m definitely an advocate for plotting your novel. If you do the legwork on the front end, you’ll be more organized later—you essentially give yourself a road map when you’re drafting. I’ve already written about balancing action and reaction scenes within your story , but today we’re going to look at the big picture: the overall narrative arc of your book.
When it comes to plot-driven novels, there is very little leeway; you need to know where your story is headed. You need to know how to put this kind of story together so you can build your story arc from the ground up. That’s where this guide comes in.
What is a Plot-Driven Story?
A plot-driven book (versus a character-driven one, which I’ve covered here ) is more focused on the actual events of the story than anything else. Honestly, that’s really it.
Instead of highlighting the characters’ inner conflicts, plot-driven stories focus on a specific end goal. In this kind of novel, the characters find themselves at Point A and have to get to Point Z. Along the way they face several obstacles. It is certainly not an easy journey, but in the end, they either reach Point Z or reach an impassable obstacle, such as death.
(By contrast, more often than not, character-driven stories begin at Point A with the characters aiming at Point Z. However, as the characters grow and change, they may learn more about themselves or their motivations regarding the mission, and end up at Point W instead.)
This does not mean that a plot-driven story requires flat characters ! These stories are often chock full of dynamic characters who learn more about themselves and how to interact with each other and the world around them. However, typically their motivations , their reasons for doing what they’re doing, do not change. Their short-term goals may change, but the long-term goal remains the same. As such, the progression of the plot is determined more by the end goal than by any changes within the characters themselves.
In short: characters change in a plot-driven story, but their overall goal or mission stays the same, and that is ultimately what drives the narrative arc.
Examples of a Plot-Driven Story
Science fiction and mystery are the two genres most notorious for plot-driven stories. More often than not, the characters within them have specific goals set by others, so there’s a clear endpoint to the tale.
While it’s less common for fantasy novels to be plot-driven, it has still worked in the past with great success. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the most well-known examples of plot-driven fantasy books. While each of the characters is well developed, with his/her own motivation and reason for being in the story, the overall emphasis is placed on the world Tolkein creates within the series (Middle Earth). The main narrative arc follows the heroes as they try to fight a specific evil (Sauron) by reaching a specific goal (destroy the One Ring). Along the way, they encounter many obstacles, learn many things, and meet many new people, but the fact remains that they must destroy the One Ring.
How Do You Write a Plot-Driven Story?
This may come as a shock, but compared to character-driven stories, plot-driven stories rely more on, well… plotting.
In general, character motivations (and even goals, depending on the narrative arc of your manuscript) don’t change very much in this kind of novel , so the middle of the story can be particularly tricky to write. It’s helpful to have a completed plot outline ready to go when you draft, so writer’s block doesn’t whack you upside the head by page four .
Whether you prefer to outline with bullet points, paragraphs, or in a spreadsheet, your starting place should be the same: the end. Looking at the big picture, focus on who your characters are, where they want to end up, and where they’re starting out.
This can be something as simple as Dora the Explorer evading Swiper, or something as dangerous as Frodo destroying the One Ring. (“Dora the Explorer is a plot-driven story” is not the hot take I was expecting to write today, but when the boot fits… Come to think of it, many children’s stories tend to be plot-driven. After all, their focus is less on emotional nuance and more on teaching children about the progression of events.)
Once you’ve developed the narrative arc and your characters’ motivations, you can then pick out tangible goals for each character. What does he or she want? How will they get it done? What goes wrong when they try that?
Chart a path for them from one conflict to the next. Be sure to include breaks for emotional development as well. If there isn’t any ebb and flow to your storytelling, your pacing will feel rushed and your characters will appear to have the emotional intelligence of soggy cardboard . Even Dora the Explorer took the time to celebrate her successes with her friends.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? Do you prefer to write plot-driven or character-driven stories? Tell me about your process in the comments—I’d love to hear from you. And, as always, happy writing!
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Plot-Driven vs. Character-Driven Stories: What’s the Difference?
by Fija Callaghan
Which makes you want to keep reading most: high-stakes, high-concept stories with breakneck plot twists, nightmarish beasties, and all-or-nothing battles— or , transformative fiction about everyday courage, people overcoming impossible odds to create their own happily ever after?
When done well, either one of these writing styles can produce engaging, compelling stories. Let’s explore the difference between character-driven vs. plot-driven writing, how to tell what kind of story you have on your hands, and which one is right for you.
What’s the difference between a plot-driven story and a character-driven story?
A plot-driven story is a narrative in which the action that propels the key events of the book happen externally to the protagonist. A character-driven story is a narrative in which the key events of the book are put into motion because of things happening within the protagonist — such as self-doubt, ambition, or a need for validation or love.
We’ll take a deeper look into each of these approaches to storytelling below.
What is a character-driven story?
A character-driven story is a narrative in which the real action—the struggles, obstacles, victories, setbacks, and triumphs—happen on the inside of your main character. While things may be happening in the plot that help facilitate the story arc, the character-driven story focuses on the character development and dramatic internal change of your protagonist or protagonists.
An example might be someone overcoming addiction, adjusting to new surroundings (such as a new school, job, or experience abroad), or navigating a relationship that faces collapse.
Often when people talk about “literary fiction,” what they really mean is character-driven writing—stories that are less about explosions and oracles and nationwide scandals than they are about people simply learning what it is to be human.
Examples of character-driven stories
Here are some examples of beloved character-driven stories:
The Midnight Library , by Matt Haig
Anne of Green Gables , by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A Man Called Ove , by Fredrik Backman
October, October , by Katya Balen
The Glorious Guinness Girls , by Emily Hourican
What is a plot-driven story?
A plot-driven story is a narrative in which the story arc is driven by external circumstances and events — things beyond the protagonist’s control. In general , most hard genre fiction — fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and crime thrillers — falls into this category. That’s because these plot-driven narratives are carried along by external changes to the main character’s world.
Romance is a funny genre that often stretches across both of these narrative styles: plot-driven and character-driven. That’s because the story is really about two human beings (or human-adjacent beings, such as aliens, faeries, vampires, etc) coming together and falling in love. But for this to happen, there are often a lot of plot points that move the story forward, such as broken-down cars, stray emails, meet-cringe coffee spills, and so forth.
Some formulaic romance will lean more on plot, while others will lean more into the complexities of character (these are sometimes sidebarred as “women’s fiction”).
Plot-driven novels can still have compelling characters, but they’ll usually give more attention to what’s happening around them than what’s happening inside them.
Examples of plot-driven stories
Here are a few examples of popular plot-driven stories in contemporary fiction:
The Cloisters , by Katy Hays
City of Bones , by Cassandra Clare
Neverwhere , by Neil Gaiman
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children , by Ransom Riggs
Magpie Murders , by Anthony Horowitz
Which is better—character or plot-driven?
So now that we understand the difference between plot-driven vs. character-driven fiction, you may be wondering—which of these is better? Or maybe, which is more marketable? Respectable? Are character-driven writers highbrow snoots with degrees from Iowa? Are plot-focused writers cheap entertainers, or worse—to use Stephen King’s term—hacks?
Don’t worry, writerly friends. There is no wrong answer to which writing style is right for you; what matters is the story you’re telling in this moment. A good story can be plot-driven or character-driven—sometimes both! And that’s completely fine. There is no one narrative style that is better than any other.
As long as you write a story has a strong voice, interesting characters, and a satisfying resolution, you’ll be able to connect with readers. Next we’ll look at how to tell whether you’re writing a character-driven or plot-driven story.
Deciding if you have a character-driven or plot-driven story
Most stories fall into one of these two categories. As a writer, deciding if your work-in-progress is plot-driven or character-driven will help you stay focused on connecting with your reader and telling the best story possible.
Define your conflict
The driving force of all story is conflict. Here’s a quick recap of the different types of conflict you’ll find in a story:
Character vs. character
This is when the protagonist fights another character in the story such as a rival colleague, an evil overlord, or a beastie from the black lagoon.
Character vs. self
This is when the protagonist is fighting against some part of themself, like their pride, envy, impulsivity, addiction, avarice, or fear.
Character vs. society
This is when the protagonist is fighting against a large, impersonal collective such as a business corporation, or a way of life, such as class divides or systematic racism.
Character vs. nature
This is when the protagonist is facing a force of nature such as a tornado, a desert with no water, or a technological uprising.
Once you pinpoint what kind of conflict is fueling your story, it becomes easier to see whether it’s plot-driven or character-driven.
Most of the time, if your conflict is character vs. character or character vs. nature , your story will be plot-driven. This is because something external to the protagonist is swooping in to make life difficult. The main character has to react to this external conflict, triggering the events of the plot.
If your conflict is character vs. self or character vs. society , your story will usually be character-driven. These stories are usually about the main characters looking inwards at their own weaknesses, perceptions, and perspectives, and the way they shape their place in the world. Even though “society” may present an external obstacle, the obstacle often serves as a lens through which the protagonist questions everything they thought they knew. This type of inner conflict is all about exploring what it is to be human.
Many stories feature more than one type of conflict, and that’s okay too. But in general, there will be one clear point of conflict that’s at the forefront of the narrative.
Examine your events
A novel is just a series of things happening one after the other—cause and effect, action and reaction. But who’s instigating these plot points? How is the protagonist reacting to them? Where are the effects being most strongly felt?
If the plot involves a lot of things happening to the main character, it’s probably plot-driven. If the main character is making a lot of choices and putting things into motion, it’s probably character-driven.
Consider, also, the impact of these events and choices. Where are their effects being felt the most? If the events of the plot have a measurable impact on the wider world—whether this is a house, a city, a planet—it’s probably plot-driven. If the events of the plot mostly affect one person or a group of people, making them see things in a way they weren’t able to before, it’s probably character-driven.
Consider your resolution
Lastly, think about the ending of your story. How do your characters develop, change, grow by the end of the book? How has the world changed? What have your characters accomplished?
If your characters are more or less the same as when they started, but the world is completely different, it’s probably a plot-driven story.
If the world looks more or less the same as when you started, but the characters are completely different, it’s probably a character-driven story.
If you don’t know how your story is going to end quite yet, this is a good thing to keep in mind if you want the main focus to be plot or character.
Character-driven stories vs. plot-driven stories: Both matter in writing!
Character-driven writing and plot-driven writing both have the power to engage readers and create compelling narratives. Neither is inherently better than the other—what matters is which is right for the story you’re writing. Now, you can use these tips and ideas to craft rich, engaging character-driven stories and plot-driven stories of your own.
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What is Plot? Definition, Examples & 10+ Types of Story Plots
Place in Fiction: The Power of Setting as Character
What is Internal Conflict? Types of Internal Conflict in Storytelling
How to Plot a Story Using the Snowflake Method
How to Write a Plot Outline: 7 Approaches to Outlining
Character Anatomy: Driving Plot Through Story Characters
Books | How Catalina Island’s past inspired Rachel…
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Books | how catalina island’s past inspired rachel howzell hall’s ‘what never happened’.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Rachel Howzell Hall remembers taking a school field trip to Catalina Island. But it was years later, during a visit with her husband and daughter, that Hall says a private tour guide provided her with an eye-opening glimpse of the island.
“As she’s taking us everywhere, she’s spilling the tea on what’s going on on the island,” the L.A.-based crime writer, who took the private tour twice, recalls. “I wanted to explore what paradise actually is.”
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In “What Never Happened,” Hall’s latest thriller, an obituary writer from Los Angeles returns to the island 20 years after her family had been brutally murdered there. Set during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the protagonist must investigate a series of mysterious deaths as the pandemic turns the island, which is already an hourlong boat ride from Long Beach, even more isolated than it ordinarily would be.
“I wanted to take that experience of always feeling isolated in some ways and then move it to a place that’s isolated from the larger place and then add a pandemic, where we’re about to be isolated from each other,” Hall says.
Hall, who published her debut novel, “A Quiet Storm,” in 2002, is the author of the award-nominated “We Lie Here” and the Lou Norton series of mysteries. She works a full-time job in addition to writing novels, and until a couple of years ago, she was also managing her now college-aged daughter’s schedule.
“Between the day job and being an active mom with an active child, I didn’t have much time to write. So, I would either write at lunch or towards the end of the day,” she explains. When the end-of-the-day schedule no longer worked, she began rising early to write between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m.
To be working those morning hours, Hall says, you have to be passionate about what you’re working on.
“I tend to write about things that scare me or bother me, or … that I just can’t let go,” says Hall. She adds that now that her daughter is a young adult, Hall’s fears have morphed. “I’m not necessarily as scared for me, but more for her, so I find that my stories kind of mimic that,” she says.
Writing crime-centered fiction, Hall has the opportunity to dig into issues that interest her.
“I like crime because it gives writers the chance to talk about troubling things, scary things. Societal things. But with this veneer of entertainment,” says Hall. “We’re talking about some serious, serious stuff, the worst things that can happen to someone, but it’s put in a plot-driven, but also character-driven, kind of structure that everyone loves.”
In “What Never Happened,” the protagonist Colette “Coco” Weber is Black, which provides Hall the opportunity to explore the troubling history of race on Catalina Island. While doing her research, Hall tracked down a scholar who wrote her dissertation on the subject and the two spoke extensively.
“Back in the 30s and 40s, Black people weren’t allowed on ferries,” Hall notes. “That’s the way you get to Catalina. If you can’t get there, you can’t live there.”
“What Never Happened” also touches on ageism, with a string of deaths that are, despite suspicious circumstances, shrugged off due to the advanced age of the deceased women.
“I wanted older women, vulnerable women, who were also strong and interesting women to be the focal point for this,” says Hall.
“As a woman who is aging, I find that you don’t care what people really think of you in some ways. You can kind of say what you want, the older you get,” says Hall. “You have all this kind of power, but some of that power is stripped from you simply because you’re a woman and you’re older. So, I wanted them to be in danger just as much danger as Coco, who is only 30-something.”
Hall is keeping busy. Her next thriller, set for publication next summer, will be set in Topanga Canyon during fire season.
She’s also publishing her first fantasy novel, “The Last One,” next year, too. “It’s going to be a different kind of vibe for me,” she says.
Even so, Hall says there are similarities between the genres. “In my fantasy story, I’m also talking about things that bother me that I’ve always thought about,” she says. “I got to do that in this world that I totally created. That was exciting.”
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‘Napoleon’ Review: A Lumpy, Grumpy Little Man
Joaquin Phoenix is oddly mesmerizing as the French emperor in Ridley Scott’s historical epic charting his rise and ruin.
By Manohla Dargis
When he was in his mid-20s and first visited the studio where he would later shoot “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles is said to have likened the movies to the best electric train set a boy could have. Welles is a defining inspiration for Ridley Scott, who is best known for monumentally scaled historical epics like “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven.” In these movies as well as in his latest spectacle, “ Napoleon ,” Scott plays, to push Welles’s metaphor further, with the biggest train sets conceivable — giant, beautiful, gleaming machines that can, by turns, transport and overwhelm you. He’s a heavy metal guy.
“Napoleon” is a very big movie, as you would expect given that it follows its title subject from the bloody delirium of the French Revolution to battlefields across Europe, Africa and, catastrophically, into Russia. More startling, though, is that the movie is also often eccentric and at times eccentrically funny. You expect refined craft and technique from Scott and the pleasures of spectacle filmmaking at its most expansive. You expect heft, seriousness, not snort-out-loud humor, which I guess explains why, while watching the movie, I flashed on Karl Marx’s axiom about history being first tragedy and then farce.
It opens in Paris amid that convulsion of violence called the Terror, with surging, shouting crowds and the metallic hiss of the falling guillotine blade. Aristocrats are losing their heads (Scott re-creates one execution with gory verisimilitude), and Napoleon Bonaparte — a mesmerizing, off-kilter, lumpish Joaquin Phoenix — will soon profit from the chaos. Before long, the story has jumped forward and now Napoleon is in the southern French port city of Toulon, where he strategically routs the Anglo-Spanish fleet that has taken the city.
Scott establishes Napoleon’s early rise to power with bold imagery and brusque narrative economy, vividly setting the historical moment with scenes from both inside the corridors of revolutionary power — enter Robespierre — and the surging anarchy out in the streets. Napoleon’s rise at this point is largely facilitated by the politician Paul Barras (Tahar Rahim), a silky operator with the pacific mien of a patiently lurking predator and an inescapable aristocratic hauteur. Everyone addresses one another as Citizen, which, in Barras’s case comes across as the 18th-century version of performative political correctness. Together, Barras and Napoleon consolidate their positions. Exit Robespierre.
Joséphine (a fine Vanessa Kirby) makes her entrance soon after, catching Napoleon’s notice (her décolletage helps) and ushering in the story’s second plotline. A widow whose husband lost his head during the Terror, Joséphine has been recently released from prison, an ordeal that has left her with short, choppy hair and a very keen sense of self-preservation. It’s not at all clear what she actually sees in Napoleon, other than his uniform, growing reputation and obvious interest in her. She’s (relatively) poor for a society woman and has children, so desperation plays a role, though the movie suggests that what Joséphine truly sees is power.
After Joséphine appears, the movie soon bifurcates into two lines of action, one involving Napoleon’s military campaigns, and the other the couple’s relationship. This kind of dual plot structure is a familiar template of old Hollywood that features two entwined strands — involving adventure and romance — that together bring everything to a close. What’s unusual here is how separate the lines of action remain in “Napoleon” and how they don’t as much interconnect as run on parallel tracks. When he’s not facing off against the Austrians, the British and the Russians, Napoleon is struggling with Joséphine, who vexes him almost as much as the Duke of Wellington (an amusing Rupert Everett).
Written by David Scarpa, the movie tracks Napoleon’s relentless rise to despotic power — he crowns himself emperor — amid political intrigues, bloody battlefields and some occasional hasty rutting with Joséphine, who invariably cuts him down to size. He’s a little man, you are regularly reminded, and his relationship with Joséphine (who soon and understandably takes a lover) makes him smaller. Periodic bits of text function as de facto chapter headings, grounding the story’s chronology and announcing the next conflagration. Historical figures come and go (Paul Rhys plays Talleyrand), but for the most part the movie slides over the complexities of both the revolution and Napoleon’s reign as well as the reasons France has been swept up in endless battles on so many fronts.
The war scenes are extraordinary, vigorous, harrowing and rightly grotesque. The tremendous scale of some of these battles helps give them their visceral power, as does Scott’s complex staging and use of masses of human actors and horses. With cannon blasts, bursts of smoke and the sights and sounds of armies of men thundering over fields toward their deaths, he conveys the frenzy of war, its heat and terror. As the fighting grimly continues, and the body count mounts, the absolute waste of it all becomes overwhelming, which is, I imagine, why Scott seems so uninterested in Napoleon’s vaunted military genius.
“Napoleon” is consistently surprising partly because it doesn’t conform to the conventions of mainstream historical epics, which is especially true of its startling, adamantly unromanticized title character. (The movie also doesn’t always conform to the historical record, and some may take issue with the portrayal of the Battle of Austerlitz.) In the early scenes, Napoleon seems to be another of Phoenix’s taciturn, unnervingly volatile, enigmatically damaged, violent men. The difference is that this Napoleon, with his bloat, scowls and consuming needs, often resembles nothing as much as an angrily petulant baby, one whose cruelty and pathological vanity make the horror he unleashes unnervingly familiar.
Napoleon Rated R for intense scenes of war. Running time: 2 hours 38 minutes. In theaters.
Manohla Dargis is the chief film critic of The Times, which she joined in 2004. She has an M.A. in cinema studies from New York University, and her work has been anthologized in several books. More about Manohla Dargis
Baba vanga’s 2024 predictions: from putin’s assassination plot to rise of terror attacks and medical breakthroughs.
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Baba Vanga was respected during her lifetime. Photo / Supplied
Blind mystic Baba Vanga - better known as the Nostradamus of the Balkans - is believed by many to have the ability to predict the future and is credited with predicting the rise of Islamic State, Brexit and even the 9/11 attacks in New York.
While many of her prophecies have come true, not all have come to fruition and in 2012 it was even suggested many of her predictions were created by Russian social media trolls. Despite the warning believers should take her predictions with a grain of salt, many deeply believe in the vague “words of wisdom” and follow along each year.
For 2022, she predicted there would be an increase in catastrophes, a lethal virus in Siberia as well as an alien encounter and many other events , while her 2023 predictions included a change of the Earth’s orbit resulting in a flood or the next Ice Age.
Vanga died in 1996 at the age of 85, but left behind predictions for the years ahead, including for 2024, so what does she believe we have in store for the year ahead?
Here are Baba Vanga’s 2024 predictions:
Vanga made the prediction that of all the world’s lands, it could be Europe which would see a rise in terrorist attacks. She claimed a “big country” would conduct biological weapons tests.
According to news.com.au , the alleged seer continued to claim the country would conduct attacks in 2024 and predicted Europe would see chaos caused by terrorists.
The Mirror reported the Nostradamus of the Balkans may have foreseen the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin by someone in his country.
It comes after claims posted on a Telegram channel in October stating Putin had died at his Valdai palace. The Kremlin quickly issued a rare statement insisting their leader was still alive and well.
It follows speculation Putin is battling cancer and his health is declining.
It could be one of the most hopeful predictions Vanga has made. According to The Sun , the blind clairvoyant claimed there will be new treatments for incurable diseases including Alzheimer’s and cancer in 2024.
According to the mystic, there are two major events occurring in relation to the world of technology next year.
She claimed 2024 will see a rise in cyberattacks, further prophesising that there will be a national security threat as advanced hackers will look at vital infrastructure like power grids.
Elsewhere, History.co.uk has reported Vanga’s claim that there will be a huge breakthrough in quantum computing.
It follows on from the rise of AI this year and could see the rapid progression of quantum computing which will solve issues faster than traditional computers.
Much like last year, the seer forecasts an orbital change - something that usually occurs over a long period of time.
However, her warning is that the orbital change could happen quicker than expected and result in terrifying natural disasters and even an increase in radiation levels.
Last but not least, Vanga has predicted there will be a large crisis in the economic landscape that will make waves in the global economy.
It comes amid talk of the cost of living crisis, recessions and increased debt levels this year. The mystic further claimed there would be an economic power shifting from the West to the East.