1. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Character, plot, or setting driven?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by KokoN, May 16, 2016.

    People sometimes talk about whether their novels tend to be plot-driven or character-driven, although I was also thinking some could be setting-driven as well, and possibly driven by other elements I can't think of. So I'm posting this out of curiosity: are most of your works plot-driven, character-driven (or something else), and why would you say that or why do you think that is? This can mean what you start with or what your strongest elements in your novels are or however else you want to interpret what "plot vs character driven" means.

    Personaly, my stories tend to be character-driven. Even if I start with a plot, my plots always revolve around my characters and I'm better at developing characters than plots. Sometimes I can create great characters who are deep and interesting but I have trouble making them interact or do interesting things. I've always been fascinated by people (psychology, sociology, anthropology...you name it), which might be why I love writing about people, but sometimes I get too nervous about writing tricky topics which might be why I'm hesitant to let my characters do interesting enough activities, hence stronger characters, weaker plots.

    Curious to see what others have to say on this topic!
     
  2. Lemie
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    Lemie Member

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    My stories are usually a bit too character driven. Sometimes far enough to lose sight of the plot, which is a bad thing. I too like the psychological and such aspects, I even took a few classes especially to learn those thing just to write better.

    I've read over and over how the plot is the most important thing and that a story should be plot-driven, but I'm not sure I agree. A good story should marry the plot and characters (and settings) together in a way that makes it "whole" (not sure about use of word, but I hope my point comes across). Tough personally I think good characters can save a bad plot more than a bad plot can save bad characters, but then again I think it's up to the writer. Some people could probably make a interesting plot work with boring characters.

    The book I'm listening to at the moment have a decent plot. Not a "wow"-one, but it could be interesting enough. But the characters, THE CHARACTERS! First of, I'm not sure if there is a main character. It's a crime story, so I guess more than one of the cops might be leading roles, but no one stands out. All characters are introduced with a shopping-list of features, sometimes alongside an anecdote that shows us something about the character, but that feels forced. And boring. Part of it might be blamed on the reader. For a story that feels a bit boring, you might not want a old man with a dry voice to underline it. I have heard books read by him before (I'm in a audio-book period right now) and I wasn't bothered with his voice then.

    Bottom line - I think I'm a character person, but both are important. Oh, and I apparently needed to went a bit about that book.
     
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  3. JD Anders
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    JD Anders Member

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    I'll echo both of you. Literary fiction has always been fascinating to me, so I write in a style that generally lends itself to my characters sitting around a bar getting drunk and just talking. Boring read.

    I'm longwinded (as if my posts didn't already betray that fact) and tend to drag out scenes that, if they could somehow be liquified, could tranquilize and elephant. I lean so heavily towards the characters that sometimes I have no plot. Again, not a good read.

    My WIP is me trying to tackle this problem with. In fact, it's centered on a guy who runs a bar and 5 people he's somehow connected to. Of course, I'm trying to actually keep people interested, so now I must solve how to get all these characters to interact in such a way that there is some suspense. I've connected to the characters; I care about what happens to them. Now I need to find a way to make others feel the same.
     
  4. Lemie
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    Lemie Member

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    I recognize myself in that.

    I actually have a little something I write just for myself where I focus on a few characters that I love and find really interesting, but that I haven't been able to incorporate into a proper story. It's a bit of a "sit around at a bar and talk" sort of story, but it only serves the purpose of getting me writing when I'm being undisciplined (which is most of the time now a days. There is a reason why I won't be a published author for years and years to come!)
     
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  5. tumblingdice
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    tumblingdice Member

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    My short stories are all character-driven, while my short novel is plot/setting-driven. Ironically, when I write shorter pieces I have more room to develop my characters and get myself inside their heads (I can't explain how that happens, it just does). Novels, on the other hand, need to have a lot more things happening and different settings, otherwise it gets boring,
     
  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Orson Scott Card wrote about this a while back. There are actually four elements that may drive story, each by itself or together with one or more of the others.

    Here's his article on Writer's Digest.
     
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  7. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I would say I definitely disagree, the reason being that saying the plot is most important is entirely an opinion and a matter of personal taste. Other people say characters are more important than plot. I think it depends on who you ask, but I'm inclined to agree with you on that.
     
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  8. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I think the important thing is change - whether that is driven by character or plot or setting or whatever else you may think of, is almost peripheral.
     
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  9. Kikijoy
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    Kikijoy Member

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    I agree with the article written by Card....there are different elements of a story will stand out. I use to really like character driven works because I mistakenly thought those works were the books in which I fell in love with. However, I feel if the plot/character/setting or what have you is lacking then the work won't speak to me. The different elements need to balance each other, compliment each other, progress the story ect., even if one stands out more. In my writing, I want my readers to really understand my character but they can't unless the events and things that happen to her are well thought out.
     
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  10. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Absolutely. Perfect answer. :)
     
  11. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    (Sorry for the double post. That WD link locked my machine for some reason. Went buggy)
     
  12. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    This is my first full-length novel and it, along with my previous short works, is character-driven. I don't really understand how a work could be setting-driven (that's not a criticism of authors who write that way, I just don't understand the concept in general).

    It's a matter of what your source is. For me, my characters are the source--their motivation and personality drive the plot, and if there is a discrepancy then I alter the plot to fit the character. For others, the plot is the source, and if there is a discrepancy then they alter their characters to it the plot. Both have their pitfalls and advantages but neither one is inherently better or worse.
     
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  13. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I think setting-driven is mostly used in fantasy and sci-fi where there's a lot of "world building." (Someone correct me if I'm getting that wrong.) I didn't really understand the concept either until people started talking about world building, and then I read Dune (okay part of it) and that was very setting driven. When the author puts a ton of work into the setting, more so than the characters and the plot, and the setting impacts the characters and plot in a big way, that's what I would call setting driven. But as others have said, most stories have all three elements.

    I agree with you about it being what your source is, for sure.
     
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  14. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    I wanted to say my writing was character driven, but the more i thought about it that's just not true. What i do is take a few characters, a reasonable plot and have them fight it out.
     
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  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a standard device in fantasy. LoTR and Terry Brooks's Sword of Shanara are both more about the environment than the characters. I know some will disagree with that, but I'm quoting (paraphrasing, actually) critics of years gone by.
     
  16. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    That's interesting. Now that I think of it, this might explain why I have never gotten into anything fantasy.
     
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  17. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    My characters drive the story usually. Though it depends on genre and POV. Although I have done basically an orgy of plot driven first POV, because it seemed fitting giving the genre and content. Though not so much in my WIP where the characters drive the story forward, even if that means they have to hit it with a vehicle to push things along. :D How would the setting drive a story, this makes little sense to me. o_O
     
  18. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    And this side discussion reminds me of something @Tenderiser said a while back.

    We were talking about 1st person vs. 3rd and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came up. She said (and forgive me, @Tenderiser, if I misquote you) that she felt like she was being kept at arm's length to the characters, wasn't being given the change to really identify with them. We concluded at the time that it was because HGttG was written in 3rd omniscient.

    But I started rereading it the other night and realized it's not that at all. HGttG is also a milieu story and the characters are secondary. They're just there to act as guides... to the galaxy.
     
  19. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    Actually HGttG was something setting-driven that I got into because the setting was so interesting and it was perfectly formatted--the characters and plots served the setting rather than trying to compete with it or exist on top of it, as in a lot of fantasy.
     
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