Pep Talk - WHRN 2009 - Character-driven vs. Plot-driven. FIGHT! by tiakall

*rings bell* And in this corner, we have the champion, Plot-driven stories!

And in the other corner, we have the underdog, Character-driven stories!

So, if you're coming from a litfic background and want to write a plot-driven story, you may feel a little lost. Fortunately for you, plot-driven stories are very easy to develop. All you need is a goal and a conflict. It can be as simple as "Sally must save the world and the evil Bob is trying to stop her." Conflicts don't have to be external--you could have a save-the-world with no "villain" at all, for example if the end of the world was being caused by environmental factors--but often are. You don't even have to develop your characters right off the bat: you can set up the main plot, decide on several plot points, and then consider what sort of character would best fit what you need to have them do.

On the other hand, if you're wanting to try something new and do a character-driven fantasy story, you might think it's too difficult. Not at all! A lot of character-driven fantasies are the "what if" type, such as "What if a guy who can see supernatural creatures opens up a counseling service for them?" A lot of the conflict of these types of stories are either internal (he starts having a crush on his receptionist) or between characters (he has a difficult orc customer), although they can be external, but are usually not encompassing the entire story (he has to pay the rent). Climactic events could be something like someone threatening to shut him down or him coming to a long-awaited realization. See, how hard was that? In these types of stories, it's more important to start with a solid character or group of characters rather than a plot or idea in mind, because your overall "plot" may be as simple as "they have adventures". While you can have a central theme in mind, it's not necessary, as your connecting factor through the story may be watching your main character mature and evolve.

Also, there's nothing to prevent you from semi-combining the two and doing a plot-driven story that is influenced by character-driving. This can do wonders for a plot that's not particularly twisty or surprising (such as save-the-worlds) if the characters are interesting. In fact, you may be able to drag up some plot twists depending on how your characters act. If you want to take that route, it is important to give your characters ample scenes/subplots to properly develop in while not slowing down the pace of the plot.

In this fight, everyone wins. :D