6 comments on “Questions?

  1. There are plot driven stories and character driven stories. The difference: When events take the characters who have no ability to control their own lives, you’re dealing with a plot driven affair. Likewise when a character does something…

    • I agree, however a plot can only drive the story if the characters are in a position where the plot is pushing them. The plot is the journey for the character to complete a goal. The plot CAN drive the story, but without the character, there’s no one for the reader to root for, or against. The character is king in a novel, but a good juicy plot adds so much to the book too. Really, you can’t have one without the other, but all things being equal, I think the characters eake out the victory in importance.

      • If you want to review the story/character issue, I ran through this a long while ago. Someone copied a Mark Twain letter, and he clarified the whole issue: It is neither. The most important and determinative part of any novel is Setting.
        I have written a novel where setting and story (historical events) sweep along, and the best any character can do is react.

      • I have written a novel where setting and story (historical events) sweep along, and the best any character can do is react.

        But without the characters, what do you have? A tree on a hill is a beautiful setting, but without a character for you to experience the setting through, its a cardboard cut-out. Readers want to care about the characters and what is happening to them. The setting is important because it allows the reader to interact with the characters using the rules established by the author in that setting.

        A car full of gangsters shooting tommy guns is cool, but a car full of gangsters shooting at the main character can be intense for a reader. The setting is the gangster period, the rules set are that the reader expects a car full of gangsters to be shooting. The payoff is how the character overcomes the obstacle. All phases of a good story are important, but without a character to cheer for, I feel the readers might not care as much or be as deeply involved in the story.

      • I’ll take two plays by Shaw.
        Pygmalion is character driven. Goal is that Elisa will learn to speak English “proper.”
        The Devil’s Disciple is story driven. It is about the impending doom coming down on General Borgoyne before Saratoga. Events dictate every scene.
        Note the difference in the stories and setting. The reader accepts each. In The Devil’s Disciple readers don’t care much about the characters. The characters survive with excellent dialogue [and if you’re writing a novel excellent description setting up each event or even description laying out the setting.]

      • In Pygmalion, you are correct, Elisa has to overcome a lot of obstacles to get to her goal. However, this all may be a matter of perspective, “Impending doom coming down on General Burgoyne” seems pretty character centric to me. If the reader truly didn’t care about the characters, take the character out and what’s left? At that point, The Devil’s Disciple is a history book. I will offer the Mystery novels by Robert Parker. The dialogue in those books is simply stellar. So many authors use prose to describe, Parker uses dialogue. Still, without the characters to deliver that dialogue, the work becomes more a static narration. Harry Turtledove turned history on its ear with several of his books, but every one of those novels would not have been successful without a character or group of characters to tie the setting and plot to.

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