Monday, January 2, 2012

ARE YOU CHARACTER DRIVEN?


            A few short years ago, I didn’t even know what character-driven meant. I had never analyzed what drew me to some novels and turned me away from others. If a story was well told, and the plot not too convoluted for my feeble mind, I usually read it through to the end.
            But as I study and learn the trade of writing, I find myself critiquing my reading list on a regular basis. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take any of the joy out of the reading, but it has made me more selective. I have even (gasp!) stepped away from a book or two and left them unfinished; something I never did before.
            I find now that my personal preference is often the character-driven novel. Whether it’s a tender love story, a tale of espionage, or a picture book, I like strong characters that pop out and carry the scenes.
            I’m not talking about characters that are described in minute detail – down to the color of their nail polish or the style of their shoes. Those are great details, but I want to believe in the character, and feel that he/she is someone I could meet at the market or at the park. If you, as the writer, can create characters that are real to me and will stand out in a crowd – whether it be a crazy uncle bent on killing his niece in an attempt to gain control of the family fortune, or a walking disaster in the form of a mop-headed, mischievous little girl, then I’m hooked. Those stories could be told by a variety of people in an endless array of styles. But to keep me reading, I have to believe these characters are real. Shoot, even a lovable, silly old bear will keep me reading if he has enough personality!
            Thanks for stopping by and reading. I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you prefer plot-driven or character-driven stories?

9 comments:

Cornell said...

This is a great subject and one that I hadn't really give a lot of though to. But now that you've opened that can of worms, I have to agree with you that I also prefer a character-driven story. If there's a great plot to go along with it, that's even better. Hunger Games comes to mind after writing that. Katniss presented us with a strong heroine, and her supporting cast members were equally well-painted. Toss that crew into the situation that was forced upon them and it's no wonder Suzanne Collins has had such success with that trilogy.Thanks for sharing and giving me more to think about.

Sharon Ledwith said...

I'm definitely a character-driven kind of gal! I invest myself into the character(s) and I'm gone. I hurt when they hurt, cry when they cry, and laugh when they laugh! Great post! Thanks for reminding me why I love writing!

anna garner said...

I agree. Character-driven all the way! I think that's the best way to get the reader emotionally involved. Thanks for the post. :-)

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Thank you, Anna, Sharon and Cornell for taking the time to comment. It amazes me how a great writer can make their characters so real. I've even wanted to punch one or two for their stupidity at times (the characters, not the writers). I mean, how long does it take until you figure out to lock your doors and stay out of the cellar! Especially when it's stormy out. And dark. And you're all alone - or so you think.

Ruth Donnelly said...

Ooh, character, definitely! I've often said that I don't care if anything actually happens in a novel as long as the main character is intriguing enough! That's not really true, of course--the more I write, the more I admire a well-crafted plot. But it's characters who get me hooked and keep me reading.

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Thanks, Ruth, for stopping by and adding to the conversation. I totally agree with you.

annmontclair said...

Character is everything. Great post.

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Hi, Ann! Thanks so much for coming by. This post is helping me realize I'm in good company.

Magic Mint said...

Characters all the way. A story with flat characters isn't a story at all. I love the characters that make me wish I was friends with them, or part of their gang, etc. Even better when I start mimicing them in everyday life.

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