Plot Driven vs Character Driven
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Thread: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

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    Default Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    Title says it all. I've been wondering what are pros and cons of each and how each can be good or bad in executions.

    Your thoughts? If you need me to elaborate, ask me and I will.

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    Brock's Pikachu LightningTopaz's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    I'm intrigued in what you feel are the pros and cons of each
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    Go Niners! Akari's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    I think a good story requires both aspects to some degree, but I prefer plot driven I guess. It seems to move along more smoothly in my humble opinion.

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    CEO of the Monsters Lugion's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    When I write, things happen and the characters react. Sometimes they act predictably, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes these actions cause more things to happen, which in turn causes the characters to react to those occurrences.

    I'm really not sure what you call that, but that's generally how I do it.

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    A good story must've both of these but that's actually harder than it seems, not a lot of authors can manage something like that.

    Plot driven is good in the sense that the story keeps moving, the bad thing is that because of this characters don't have a lot of chance to develop or do much but are just moved around over and over, you might get short moments here and there but the characters don't do much but follow the plot along. A character driven fic on the other one is one where the characters can move the plot along with their actions, however this means that your characters would have to do things in a way that the plot keeps moving, and this might sometime be something that seems illogical. However I think that a character driven fic is the closest thing to a merge cause at least the characters can help move the plot along as oppose the the characters just following the plot.

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    I personally think that you can do both, and successfully achieve a character driven story where the characters are continuously developing and growing, yet also have a plot driven one where the plot can still unfold and cause your characters to have to adapt and develop due to changes.

    As @Stellar Gale said, it's very easy to make a story that doesn't balance these things, but it can take a while, or careful planning and to make sure you can have your characters develop and keep growing in an intriguing way and an interesting turn, yet also have the plot revolve (sometimes) not around the characters and what they do. Obviously characters will do what they need to, and will act, and this will change the course of the plot, but then again, things happen, and characters must react. If you can achieve that then I personally believe you have a healthy balance.

    Also though, as Stellar said, often this can be achieved quite nicely through the use of a very character driven storyline as the characters can change the plot in the easiest way without it causing many problems to the overall telling of the story or making it seem stale... It's great!!! Yet it needs to be done in a simple way and not overbearingly forced down the readers throat (unless that is the purpose of those characters or that storyline).
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    I think some of you guys have a big misunderstanding as to what plot-driven and what character-driven means. For some reason I know some people associate plot with action and character with yawning, but neither is the case. In fact, most action is only exciting because we care about the characters in the story, which relies on character-related story telling, and without action there would be no characters at all, since personality and flaws are revealed by the problems characters face and how they overcome them. Both character and plot are reliant on each other, and any story missing too much of either one is just plain bad writing. But either way, I'll go over what they mean anyways.

    In a plot-driven story, the primary obstacles and struggles in the story are things that exist outside of the main character's psyche, such as the army of the big bad guy, or a murder mystery that needs to be solved, or a rival to be defeated. Pros are that they are generally considered much easier to write for an amateur, and some might say easier to read, and its easier, even necessary to stack obstacles which might be unrelated ("add more action", essentially). Cons are that emotional impact is minimal, there is little catharsis, and reader investment is low, it relies so much on 'cool things happening' that its difficult to hold interest for longer than the story takes to read/watch.

    In a character-driven story, the primary obstacles and struggles are internal and/or intangible, such as succumbing to a desire for revenge, learning to love again, or wrestling with decisions regarding morality or duty. Pros are that emotional impact and reader connection is very high, and you can leave the reader with something much more lasting to think about. Cons are that it can be more difficult to write well, and you definitely have to be knowledgeable in terms of people and how they think, since internal processes are the core of the story.

    Notice I said primary obstacles. The vast majority of stories offer both external obstacles and internal obstacles, but what is going to determine whether the story is more plot-driven or character-driven is what the core themes of the story are and where the author places his/her focus. Probably having a more or less equal amount of both is the ideal. Each type of obstacle/problem to be solved also has its own climax and in the best stories the climaxes come either on top of one another or even as a result of each other, further connecting the story and heightening emotional impact.

    Personally I find primarily plot-driven stories supremely boring and all alike, showing a lack of imagination and story-telling ability, (I'm looking at you, every Epic Fantasy and Science-Fiction story written in the last 20 years!) Psychological stories are much more interesting and I enjoy that emotional catharsis that character-driven works give. This forum definitely needs more character-driven stories. Adding action is easy, its not something that needs much practicing, adding interesting characters is hard and much more impressive.

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    Quote Originally Posted by Prof. Lugion View Post
    When I write, things happen and the characters react. Sometimes they act predictably, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes these actions cause more things to happen, which in turn causes the characters to react to those occurrences.

    I'm really not sure what you call that, but that's generally how I do it.
    That's basically character driven. I think :/

    @NoirGrimoir First I wanted to say that I loved your post, it was a great and not too simplified summary of what this thread asks.

    Second is, while I do agree that the majority of fantasy and sci-fi are plot driven and that psychological ones are more interesting in that they are more character driven I don't think that it's necessarily all that way.

    Psychological stories delve into the workings of the characters mind as they experience what the author has in store for them, in that sense character driven stories are nourished by the plot, while most concept based stories are invested into the plot to more reveal the concept while the characters are left to just... well sit and do whatever the author wants them to do, which is why they are plot driven, and that's why I think the characters in this care are replaceable.

    When ever I read a story or watch one (usually but not limited to anime and manga) I always try to determine whether the story is character driven or plot driven by omitting the characters or replacing them. In a lot of cases the author does a great job of making the character important to the plot as to avoid this, but sometimes despite this the author is tempted to invest more into the plot therefore making the characters less likable, and not in the sense of hating a character for being "evil" but more like not caring bout them.

    I like to use One Piece and Naruto as examples (I'm not sure whether or not you've read/watched them though) In these manga both main characters are important to the plot, you could say the story wouldn't have started without them, the only problem is how much the characters are given to experience and whether or not they were allowed to experience them legitimately or that the author just gave them an excuse to move the plot along. It's very apparent in One Piece how free the characters are to do what ever they want, while in Naruto the characters are (in my opinion) violently forced by the plot to be placed in conveniently awing situations.

    I'd like to think that the difference between plot and character driven stories is whether or not the characters are the one choosing there futures by there own will, only being guided by the concepts/obstacles the author creates, so it would be a world created by the author and a future chosen by the characters.

    That's my opinion. :)
    Last edited by Safe-T; 27th January 2013 at 02:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance View Post

    Second is, while I do agree that the majority of fantasy and sci-fi are plot driven and that psychological ones are more interesting in that they are more character driven I don't think that it's necessarily all that way.
    You're right of course, I was just getting my digs in with hyperbole. Robin McKinley, Anne McCaffrey and Lois McMaster Bujold are great fantasy and sci-fi writers who in particular write excellent character-driven stories. They are my idols. O_O

    Though, I don't actually agree with your example of One Piece vs. Naruto. I feel Naruto is much more character-driven than One Piece, though neither is especially character-based. As much as I enjoy One Piece, Luffy has very little personality to speak of and has had basically no character development outside of becoming a better fighter in the whole manga, whereas Naruto goes from a boisterous, childish prankster, to someone who is very empathetic, responsible and passionate. In the end, though, they are mostly fantasy adventure/action stories before they are anything else. While your method of looking at a series and thinking about whether the story would be the same if the characters were replaced with different characters is definitely viable, I think considering how much personality characters have and how they've changed over the course of the series is possibly a more accurate one. An example of a character-driven shounen people might be knowledgeable of is Death Note, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, though an emphasis on character is something more associated with the more mature Seinen or female-targeting Shoujo and Josei demographics.

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    Stray Dog Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    Yeah but does it count as character driven if the characters develop?

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    If their powers and fighting skills develop, absolutely no. If their personality, views, maturity and/or morals develop, either in a positive or a negative direction, it counts as character development, but not necessarily does it mean the story is character-driven.

    Here's an example that I hope is clear. What's the "Action premise" of One Piece? Luffy trying to become The Pirate King. Pretty easy to answer. What's the "Character premise" of One Piece? Well, a lot of side-characters have some decent character development, for instance the whole Sogeking/Ussop arc, where he grows mature and all that, and also how most of the characters joined the crew shows development (except Brook, but he's a wacko skeleton so he honestly didn't really need much of a reason to hang around Luffy, I forgive him for having iffy-motivation since he's probably insane anyway). Luffy himself however, the main character of the whole story, has basically not changed at all. He was in an angst coma for like half a second when a certain someone died but that's practically forgotten already. Yes, that's right, in the 700-ish chapters of One Piece, the main character has had virtually no development and there has been very little explanation of what he's thinking and why, and I have to wonder if he even thinks at all (I would venture to say he really doesn't much).

    So seeing as the action premise is so obvious but the main character premise is almost non-existant, or at the very least, not something important enough to emphasize, it seems obvious which is more important in the story. While One Piece certainly has some character development, it is definitely NOT a character-driven story.

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    Stray Dog Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    Actually to me it seems like his character became dumber with time.

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    ^Which character do you speak of?

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    Stray Dog Flaze's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    I was speaking about Luffy.

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    Default Re: Plot Driven vs Character Driven

    In that case, I think it is definitely possible that he got dumber throughout the series. I agree with you there. In the beginning it seemed like he might actually have some kind of thought process going on, even if it was a little childish and screwy, and he actually seemed like he might be nervous or scared on occasion, but now it sort of seems like he just does stuff based on...I don't even know. Crazy shit happens in front of him and he shows little sign of understanding how dangerous and messed up the situation is. the character basically LOST depth as the series lengthened.

    Don't get me wrong, I like One Piece and read the new chapter every week, but a shining star of character development it is not.

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