This gets brought up a lot in different writing criticisms that I see. There seems to be a general consensus (though not universal) that character-driven stories are better than plot-driven stories.

So, how does a novice writer identify if their story is truly one or the other?

One simple test is looking at how decisions are made in the story.

Example: James Bond movies. Clearly plot-driven. Look at Casino Royale. There's a bomber. Bomber runs, so Bond chases. Bomber leaves a clue to go to Nassau, Bond goes to Nassau. Bad guy goes to airport, Bond goes to airport. Bad guy holds poker game, Bond goes to poker game. Bond doesn't really have any choices in the movie, he just reacts to whatever is happening around him and takes the straightest route. (Until the finale, which is arguably what makes Casino Royale the one Bond film that actually has some character-development.)

Counter-example: Hunger Games. Katniss is not chosen for the games, and could choose to just sit it out, but she volunteers. When she's in the games, she could choose to team up with careers, but she doesn't. She could tell the truth about her feelings about Peeta, but she chooses to play them up for the audience. She could ignore Rue, or fight against her, but opts to work with her. The plot is there, with the Capitol and the Games pushing her to do things in order to survive, but she gets to make a choice every step of the way, and it's her choices that make the story go in the direction they do.

If the characters only have one real choice, the story is plot-driven. If they have a real option between two choices (more than just fight or give-up), then it's character-driven. If you're trying to figure out how to make your story more character-driven, ask yourself at different major points: "What would happen if my character chose to do something else? Is that something they might reasonably do?" If there's no other reasonable action, you've plotted yourself into a corner.

Source: reddit post


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