Basically, a character driven novel is one in which book concentrates on the character’s development. In contrast, plot driven novels may feature external events and plot twists more prominently.
Author Robyn DeHart writes a great summary of how to plan for such a work that includes selecting a theme to focus on, deciding on the lesson the character needs to learn, and then developing how they will learn that lesson, i.e. the character arc. She concludes that the latter essentially constitutes the plot. Click here to read her article.
From a slightly differing perspective, writer Rachel Giesel says that while the plot may seem to take a background role in character driven works, it does exist and can serve as a catalyst for the characters. She argues that plot and character development should go more hand in hand. She also provides some advice on how to plan a character driven novel and includes some worksheets free to those who sign up on her website. Click here for the link to the article.
Goodreads lists several well-known examples of character driven novels including:
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
- The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
- The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others
In contrast, examples from Goodreads’ plot driven list includes:
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Ready Player One by Earnest Cline, and
- Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, among others
After looking into what a character driven novel is, I am beginning to realize that some of my favorite works are character driven. I had usually just assumed that I would focus on writing more plot driven works, but now I’m beginning to question that assumption. How about you? Do you have a preference for reading or writing character versus plot driven works?
References and Further Information
DeHart, Robyn. “How to Plot a Character Driven Book In 3 Easy Steps.” From http://www.robyndehart.com/for-writers/how-to-plot-a-character-driven-book-in-3-easy-steps/
Dorrance Publishing Co, Inc. “Character Driven v. Plot Driven Writing: What’s the Difference?” From http://www.dorrancepublishing.com/character-driven-v-plot-driven-writing-whats-difference/
Giesel, Rachel. “How To Plan a Character Driven Plot in 4 Steps.” From http://rachelgiesel.com/blog/character-driven-plot
Goodreads. “Popular Character Driven Books.” From https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/character-driven
Goodreads. “Popular Plot Driven Books.” From https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/plot-driven?page=1