Are you Character-Driven or Plot-Driven by Cassiel Knight

Not long ago, I was listening to a recording from the 2008 RWA Nationals about evoking emotions. The speaker said something that resonated with me. Not because I agreed with it (parts I definitely did) but because it made me think about why I write the kinds of stories I write. The speaker said, basically, that people go to movies and read books not for special effects but for an emotional experience. And by emotional experience, she meant characters, not the excitement and thrills you get when things are blown up.

When I say I disagree, it’s not that I disagree with the workshop. It’s completely accurate for those who write character-driven stories. It’s more of the context of how she said it and not so much my interpretation. You see, when I craft a story, sure, I want it to be emotional but I want the special effects too. Same thing when I go to a movie. I want to feel awed, thrilled and amazed. Like watching Avatar.

People said there was a message in the movie. Something about the characters. How they grow, change, etc. But  that’s not what I loved about Avatar. What caused an emotional reaction in me was the special effects – the world-building, the chase scenes, the big fight at the end and all the action in-between. While I was intrigued by the characters and got the growth and eventually the message, I didn’t really care about that as much as I did about the thrill I got with the plot. The same thrill I get even after the 10th time watching it.

Of course, I  care about characters. I care what happens to them especially when I’m watching them deal with attacking monsters, transforming machines (call me a Transformers junkie), demons and other assorted menaces. The more action the better. I’ll take some emotion, but that’s not why I read books and watch movies. If you look at my movie collection, you’ll find 80% more action/adventure, alien and horror movies then you’ll find romance.

Not because I don’t like romance. Oh, I do. I love to watch two people find each other even as they battle whatever the author throws at them. However, I’m happiest when the writers spend more time throwing things for the couple to fight versus slowing down to explore their emotions or find a deeper meaning in life.

I think that’s why Relic Defender: Key of Solomon was rejected as often as it was. Not because it wasn’t a good story or that I was a terrible writer (hey, I have proof I’ve grown as a writer hiding with the dust bunnies under my bed), but because it was more plot intensive than character-driven and romance, if anything, tends to be more character-driven. And that’s okay. It’s just not me.

In fact, book 2 of the Relic Defender series, The Death Skull (you can read the first chapter by visiting, is already starting out to be more action oriented than the first one. Sure, the characters have their issues and emotions which they’ll have to deal with – while they are fighting dictators, evil demons and a soul-sucking succubus.

This is why I write, read and watch movies. For the thrills, chills and explosions. Might make it harder for me to find a place shelved strictly under romance. I’m okay with that. And I’ll bet I find readers who are okay with that too.

How about you? Are you a character-driven or plot-driven reader?


Posted on October 19, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m willing to bet there are more fiction writers out there that would rather have character driven stories instead of plot driven stories. Ask yourself this question: From a marketing standpoint, which is the most identifiable to readers? Look at the Harry Potter books … talk about character development in every Happy Meal so to speak. Of course, you could argue that board games are plot driven. Interesting perspective here.


    • That’s interesting, JR. I think people like the HP books for different reasons. Yes, there was character development but I loved, loved the magic and all the action scenes. It’s intriguing, especially in a HP book, to wonder how well the two were inter-related – what would have happened if character had been light but plot heavy? I’m just glad that there are books and movies for all of us.


  2. I’m predominately a character driven writer, surprise, surprise 🙂 There’s a little more action in dragon books, but still, I want to know what is going on with the characters and why they care about their lives 😀


    • LOL! Yes, I know this about you. Who do you think I give as an example of a character-driven author. We’ve had lots of discussions on this. Of course, I think you breaking out into paranormal has allowed you to explore plot-driven more and it’s probably a part of it you like.


  3. Uh, neither and both. How’s that for definition? 🙂 Actually, I’m idea driven. That probably comes from starting in the SF world. All my novels start with a big idea, then I discover what type of characters would be in a world with that big idea. Then the characters tell me all about the plot. Sometimes they surprise me and put things in the plot I never consciously thought to include. About 2/3rds of the time it works out. However, the 1/3rd of the time it doesn’t I have quite the internal battle to remove the plot direction. Of course, i always win. 🙂


    • Hmm. Maggie that’s interesting way to put it. I wish my characters talked more to me. They usually deal with what I throw at them which means I get to be more plot. However, the place the argue with me is whether or not they should have sex. I should do a post about that. Sigh.


  4. Totally character driven, but that’s just what comes out when I write. But the more important issue here… you have a SUCCUBUS in your novel? I love succubus stories. Look forward to reading!


    • LOL! Jamie! Yes, I do indeed have a succubus but she’s not one of these nice ones. In fact, she’s pretty nasty but even more so in book #2. Somehow, I can’t quite think of a succubus as being good. 🙂


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