Character-Driven or Plot-Driven

Savage and Lightning 5

Some months ago I asked an age-old-question. What’s the difference between a plot-driven story and a character-driven story? You would think that’s an easy question to answer, but it’s not.

The two popular answers I received looked something like this: plot-driven stories emphasize more plot twists, external conflict, and action; and character driven stories emphasize more characterization, inner conflict, and relationships.

In 2008, when I first started taking story telling seriously, I would have accepted those answers and went on about my non-business, but since then, I’ve read more fiction novels, books on storytelling, spoken to writers and other story tellers, so those two popular answers don’t sit well with me now. I’m not saying the responses are wrong, but those two definitions remind me of failed stories in both categories. The bestselling novels emphasize both definitions in both categories (I think). The difference between plot-driven stories and character-driven stories (Successful ones) is the stakes (I think). High stakes and crises are woven into the protagonist’s goal of plot-driven stories, but not in character-driven stories.

Now the question is do high stakes or larger than life crises drive stories?

I’m not sure. At this point, I don’t believe they do; I’m still researching the matter. Is it possible that high stakes and crises “help” to create an intense thrill ride?

As for, plot-driven vs. character-driven, it seems that many, if not all, successful stories have their fair share of characterization, inner conflict, relationship building, plot twists, external conflict, and action; give or take a few characteristics from story to story.


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