Musing Mondays—August 22, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s musing asks, “Do you prefer character-driven stories, or plot-driven stories?”

I definitely prefer character-driven stories. I will forgive a character-given story for not having much of a plot, but I can’t stand plot-driven novels with wooden or underdeveloped characters. Wooden characters were my chief problem with [amazon_link id=”0307474275″ target=”_blank” ]The Da Vinci Code[/amazon_link]. See, I will agree that [amazon_link id=”0316038377″ target=”_blank” ]Twilight[/amazon_link] is not especially well written, but it kept me turning pages because it had developed characters (though whether they’re good role models, etc., I am not here to debate) in addition to an engaging plot that kept me turning the pages. Most of the books I’ve truly disliked have suffered from the same issue: sacrificing character development in favor of the plot.

I think it’s important to give your readers some reason to care what happens to the characters. If your characters are only there to serve the plot, they are hard to empathize with. They don’t have to be perfect. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Some authors even pull the neat trick of creating characters with plenty of loathsome qualities that nonetheless engage the reader: Humbert Humbert and Holden Caulfield, for example. If I can be intrigued by the character in some way, I will probably enjoy the book more and rate it higher than a book with an intriguing plot and wooden characters. They remind me a bit of paper dolls. You just plug them into their scenes, and they function only as placeholders—someone to move the plot toward its conclusion.

2 thoughts on “Musing Mondays—August 22, 2011

  1. I think the best books give you both … and those are the ones we keep coming back to. I've often found that the books with the most "outrageous" plots usually don't have the best characters … and vice versa. When an author can do both, it is heaven!

    1. Oh, I agree, but if someone said choose characters or plot, I'd pick characters. But when you get both, it's wonderful. That's what I love about the Harry Potter books.

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